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By ESPN Staff

Asia asks for World Cup date change

SYDNEY, Nov 26 (Reuters) - Asian Football officials have written to FIFA asking them to change one of the dates for the 2010 World Cup qualifiers.

AFC President Mohamed Bin Hammam said he had asked soccer's world governing body to switch one of the scheduled match dates, set for August next year, to an earlier timeslot to avoid extreme weather conditions in the Middle East.

'We have a policy that we don't play in extreme heat and we don't play in extreme cold,' Bin Hammam told reporters on Monday.

'We have written to FIFA objecting to playing in August in the Middle East. We are fighting to avoid that date and we think we have already succeeded.'

Bin Hammam said the final schedule for the third round of Asia's World Cup qualifiers would also be delayed until all the competing associations had agreed on a programme.

He said some countries, such as Iraq, had to find neutral countries where they could play their home matches.

Five groups of four teams were decided at Sunday's draw in South Africa, with only the top two teams from each group to go through to the next phase.

Australia striker John Aloisi said the Socceroos, who were seeded as Asia's top team, would have their work cut out getting through a group including 2002 World Cup qualifiers China, reigning Asian Cup holders Iraq and Qatar, the Asian Games champions.

'This is the beauty of being in Asia,' Aloisi told reporters in Melbourne.

'We are going to play tough games and if we do qualify, which we have to be confident of doing, then we will be better prepared for the World Cup.'

Aloisi's enthusiasm was not shared by Ratomir Dujkovic, the general manager for China's national and Olympic teams.

'This draw is really terrible. You could say there couldn't be a more terrible result,' he told the Beijing Evening News.

Japan Football Association vice president Junji Ogura was breathing a sigh of relief after his team was drawn in the same group as Thailand, Oman and Bahrain.

'It's a great draw and an easy group to be playing in,' Ogura told Kyodo.

Korea Football Association media spokesman You Young-cheul said the pairing of both Koreas with Jordan and Turkmenistan in group three was a significant opportunity for both countries.

'We also hope it plays a big role toward inter-Korean reconciliation and exchange,' he said.

'We hope this will be the opportunity to increase communication and understanding between the two Koreas.'

Asian Cup runners-up Saudi Arabia were drawn in Group four with Singapore, Lebanon and Uzbekistan while Iran were in Group five with Syria, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.