Saudis out to bury qualification demons

Reuters, Friday 12 Oct 2012

Desperate to regain their seat at the top of Asian soccer, Saudi Arabia say they will be taking nothing for granted as they switch their focus from the World Cup to the AFC Asian Cup.

Eliminated early from qualification for Brazil 2014, the Saudis have now been grouped with Iraq, China and Indonesia for qualification for the 2015 Asian Cup, to be held in Australia.

"Our group is not that much easy, but at the same time it is not completely difficult," Saudi coach Frank Rijkaard said.

Expanding on the riddle, the former Barcelona coach added: "We are looking to take a ticket for the finals from this group, as we want to regain our place in the elite of Asian football."

Saudi Arabia Football Federation's national team committee chairman Muhammed Al Meshel hopes these qualifiers will provide an opportunity to put right errors in committed in the latest World Cup qualifying campaign.

Saudi will miss out on Brazil 2014, after exiting qualifying after the third round with only one win - over Thailand - in six matches.

"Our group is very difficult as we will face teams like Iraq and China, but we want to regain what we lost after our exit from the World Cup third qualifying round," Al Meshel told the Asian Football Confederation website.

"The most important lesson we learnt from World Cup qualifying is not to underestimate any group, and I re-confirm that our group is the strongest."

The West Asians will host China in their Asian Cup qualifying opening match on Feb. 6, 2013.

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