Japan to play Malaysia, Syria in Olympic qualifiers

Soccer: Japan to play Malaysia, Syria in Olympic qualifiers

TOKYO, Sept. 16 Kyodo

Japan will open their qualifying campaign for the Beijing Olympic soccer tournament in the second round against Malaysia, Syria and the winner of the first-round tie between Hong Kong and Bangladesh in Group B, the Japan Football Association said Saturday.

The second round will be played between Feb. 28 and June 6 next year and the top two teams advance to the final round scheduled to be held between Aug. 22 and Nov. 21. Japan received a bye in the first round.

Only the winners of each of three four-team groups in the final round will qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Both the second and final rounds will be played on a home-and-away basis.

Elsewhere in the second round, Asian powerhouses Saudi Arabia and Iran have been drawn into a tough Group D, which is also expected to feature Australia, who face minnows Taiwan in the first round.

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Following are second-round groups in Asian qualifiers for the 2008 Beijing Olympics soccer tournament:

Group A — Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Singapore or Pakistan

Group B — Japan, Malaysia, Syria, Hong Kong or Bangladesh

Group C — Oman, Lebanon, Vietnam or Afghanistan, Indonesia or Maldives

Group D — Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan or Kyrgyzstan, Australia or Taiwan

Group E — Iraq, North Korea, Turkmenistan or Thailand, Myanmar or India

Group F — South Korea, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan or Tajikistan, Yemen or Palestine

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