Debate over uneven qualifying format for Asian Cup
SEOUL (AP) - The uneven qualifying format for the Asian Cup is sparking debate around the region, with doubts raised about giving the continent's best teams a pass while denying the smaller nations a chance to learn from playing against their more accomplished neighbors.
This week's preliminary qualifying draw for the 2015 Asian Cup did not include the top nations - they are given passage through to the final tournament - while the smaller countries were locked out. That removed the kind of David vs. Goliath clashes that can clutter, for instance, European qualifying for major tournaments but which can also lend the sport much of its romance while also providing the occasional upset result.
Only 20 of the Asian Football Confederation's 47 members came out of the hat in Melbourne in the qualifying draw.
As usual, the hosts do not have to qualify. In this case, it's Australia. Although, the Socceroos would not have had to qualify, anyway, after reaching the final of the 2011 edition.