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Mar 9, 2012

Asian heavyweights drawn together

Australia and Japan, the 2011 Asian Cup finalists, have been paired together for the final round of the continent's World Cup qualifying campaign.

The Blue Samurai triumphed in Qatar last year, and will be favourites to top Group B ahead of the Socceroos, Iraq, Jordan and Oman.

In Group A, South Korea stand out as the traditional powers, though Uzbekistan - who had the best record in the third round of qualifying - are expected to challenge hard for a first place at the finals. Lebanon, three-time World Cup qualifiers Iran and 2022 host Qatar make up the other contenders.

The top two teams in each group will secure an automatic passage to the 2014 finals in Brazil, while the two third-placed teams will play each other for a spot in the AFC-CONMEBOL play-off - against the fifth-placed team in South American qualifying.

Australia coach Holger Osieck believes his side have been drawn in the tougher of the two groups, but is confident he can mastermind the country's progress to a third straight World Cup finals.

"It's going to be a tough group, particularly the road [away] games," Osieck said. "[But] we know what is at stake now and we know what we have to deliver. We have to be right there from the start, from minute one."

AFC World Cup qualifying draw:

GROUP A - South Korea, Uzbekistan, Iran, Lebanon, Qatar

GROUP B - Australia, Japan, Iraq, Jordan, Oman

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