AFC foul play again?

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4,284 views – KUALA LUMPUR, Four years ago Iran suffered heartbreak when a 1-1 on the final matchday in Seoul was not enough to even advance to the World Cup qualifying playoffs.

Undoubtedly Team Melli had already failed to deliver earlier, but what made the occassion special was that the final two matches of the Asian World Cup qualifying groups were not played simultaneously.

Contenders Saudi Arabia and North Korea faced each other in Riyadh hours after the final whistle in South Korea, knowing a draw would now be enough to see both sides through instead of Iran.

Unsurprisingly, the two sides were eager not to concede and a lackluster goalless draw was the result.

Why the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) failed to schedule the matches fairly almost 30 years after the “Disgrace of Gijon” had changed the football world to the better and, if not able to do so, why the lower seeded teams got the advantage of playing last, is only a mystery to those who have not followed Asian football closely.

History repeating?

However, this time FIFA reacted and ruled all final group matches, even in the qualifiers, must be kicked off simultaneously.

Chapter 18, point 10 of the official FIFA World Cup 2014 regulations clearly states that “the FIFA Organising Committee shall ensure that matches in the same group are played simultaneously when the situation demands this for sporting reasons.”

The first team to benefit from that again were the Saudis when their match in Australia in the second round of qualifiers was kicked off simultaneously to Oman’s game against Thailand. Yet, the Saudis gave away a 1-0 lead to eventually lose 1-3 and bowed out of the competition early as Oman trounced Thailand at home.

One would assume AFC to schedule the final games of the third and last qualifying round on June 18 – Iran’s clash in South Korea again as well as Qatar’s match in Uzbekistan – simultaneously this time.

But the AFC’s official homepage lists Iran’s game in Ulsan at 20:00 local time, exactly two hours before the game in Tashkent will kick off at 18:00 local time.

The Iranian Football Federation (IFF) already sent a “reminder” to the AFC to do their job properly this time, but doubts arise within Iran if the AFC will fully comply with the rules, especially if patronaged Qatar should still be in contention then.

Should that be the case, Iran again could be betrayed from a fair chance of qualification for the second time in a row.

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