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27.01.04 10:58

SRI-LANKA FOR A WARMUP...

A CALENDAR OF WORLD FOOTBALL CUP - 2006 QUALIFICATION FOR ASIAN NATIONAL TEAMS APPROVED

The specific dates of matches of the World Football Cup - 2006 qualification in the 8th Asian zone consisting of Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Sri-Lanka are known.

All the games are to be held from February 18 to November 17, 2004, the Asian Football Confederation headquarters (AFC) informed in its official letter.

A calendar of qualification of the World Cup with the finals to be held in 2006 in Germany was approved by the FIFA. According to it the first match of the group stage tournament Turkmenistan will play against Sri-Lanka on February 18 in Ashgabat. The footballers of Turkmenistan are accustomed to playing against Sri-Lanka having beaten it twice last year (1:0 and 3:0) in the framework of the Asian Cup - 2004. Saudi Arabia will host Indonesia on the same day.

The schedule of other games is as follows:

March 31:

Turkmenistan vs. Indonesia

Sri-Lanka vs. Saudi Arabia

June 9:

Saudi Arabia vs. Turkmenistan

Indonesia vs. Sri-Lanka

September 8:

Turkmenistan vs. Saudi Arabia,

Sri-Lanka vs. Indonesia

October 13:

Sri-Lanka vs. Turkmenistan

Indonesia vs. Saudi Arabia

November 17:

Indonesia vs. Turkmenistan

Saudi Arabia vs. Sri-Lanka

Only one team will qualify for the next round. It will join the winners of seven more qualification groups. They will be split into two groups by four teams in each group. Those national teams that take first two places will qualify straight away for the World Cup - 2006 Finals. And those placed third in groups will play joint matches against each other for the right to win the additional fifth pass to the World Cup - 2006 in a match against the fourth team from CONCACAF zone (countries of Northern and Central America and Caribbean basin).

Thus, Turkmen footballers face extremely tough task because two teams of the 8th Asian group - Saudi Arabia and Indonesia - have much more experience of playing in such kind of tournaments. For the time being, Saudi Arabia is rated the 26th (654 points), Indonesia - 91st (475 points), Turkmenistan shares the 96th place with Salvador (460 points) among 204 national teams. As for Sri-Lanka, it can be rated the apparent outsider of the tournament, though it should not be underestimated.

Interestingly, the national team of Turkmenistan has enhanced its rate by 12 points for the last month and shifted 3 places up in the world football rating. There are Lithuania (103rd place, 440 points), Moldova (108th place, 433 points), Armenia (112th place, 407 points), Azerbaijan (114th place, 406 points), Kazakhstan (135th place, 327 points), Tajikistan (136th place, 324 points) and Kyrgyzstan (157th place, 243 points) behind Turkmenistan out of the post-Soviet states’ teams.

The best of the Asian national teams is South Korea with 664 points in the 22nd place. The world champion, Brazil, (848 points) tops the world rating followed by the European champion, France (826 points) and Spain (798 points).

Aleksander VERSHININ
Sport observer, Ashgabat

PHOTO: Dayanchklych Urazov, one of the best players of the national team of Turkmenistan

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