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By ESPN Staff

Australia postpone Asian Cup qualifier

SYDNEY, Jan 6 (Reuters) - Australia have postponed their Asian Cup qualifier against Lebanon in March to play a friendly against a tougher opponent which will help their World Cup preparations.

Australia were due to host Lebanon on March 1 in the second round of qualifiers for the 2007 Asian Cup, but have switched the match to September 1.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) agreed to let each of the Asian teams that qualified for the World Cup move the dates back to September if they wanted to arrange their own friendlies.

Australia have yet to decide whom they will play on March 1 but the match is almost certain to take place in Britain or Europe, where the bulk of their international players are based.

'We'd like to thank the AFC for their foresight in offering the option to postpone the 1 March matches to their nations that are competing at the World Cup,' Football Federation Australia (FFA) chief executive John O'Neill said in a statement.

'We now have the ability to look for a match which will assist us in preparing for the World Cup.'

Australia are drawn in the same Asian Cup qualifying pool as Lebanon, Bahrain and Kuwait. The teams play each other home and away with the top two advancing to next year's finals. Australia will play their first qualifier away to Bahrain on February 22 but the remaining matches will take place after the World Cup in Germany.

Australia have already organised a pre-World Cup friendly against the Netherlands in Rotterdam on June 4 and are hoping to organise other warm-ups. They have also begun talks with European champions Greece about a match in Australia in late May, and are trying to arrange another friendly in Europe after the Netherlands match.

Australia's Asian Cup qualifiers:
• Feb 22 - Bahrain v Australia
• Aug 16 - Australia v Kuwait
• Sept 1 - Australia v Lebanon
• Sept 6 - Kuwait v Australia
• Oct 10 - Australia v Bahrain
• Nov 15 - Lebanon v Australia