World Cup 2014 qualifying format gets tweaked

As we reported via Twitter- Mohammed Bin Hammam and Co. have settled on a couple of minor changes to the qualifying format for the 2014 World Cup. Mark your calendars as the preliminary draw is set for Wednesday, March 30th!

The most significant change is the introduction of a preliminary round of qualifying and the removal of the horrendous second "round" that was in place for the 2010 tournament. Palestine will be taking place in the preliminary round of qualifying after being ranked 37th out of 43 nations (They were ranked 18th for the 2010 edition).

Also taking part in the first round are 15 other nations ranked 28th and below. Palestine will play one of these nations home and away on June 28th and July 3rd, respectively:

28. Malaysia, 29. Afghanitsan, Cambodia, 31. Nepal, 32. Bangladesh, 33. Sri Lanka, Vietnam, 35. Mongolia, 36. Pakistan, 37. Palestine, 38. Timor Leste, 39. Macau, 40. Chinese Taipei, Myanmar, 42. Laos, Philippines.

If you're wondering how we have fared against the opposition listed above, the answer is quite well.

Palestine faced Malaysia in 2002 World Cup qualifying and beat them 1-0 but lost their final game to them 3-4 after Qatar had clinched qualification from the group. The games were played in Hong Kong and Doha, respectively.

Palestine faced Cambodia at the 2006 AFC Challenge Cup group stage and thrashed them 4-0 with a brace from Ibrahim Al-Sweikeri and goals from Keshkesh and Attal.

Palestine has faced Nepal only once at senior level. Their sole match was the 2008 Challenge Cup qualifier during the Izzat Hamzeh (shudder) era. The match ended 0-0 and was played in the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu.

Palestine holds an undefeated record against Bangladesh, having drawn against them (1-1) in the 2006 Challenge Cup in a dead rubber group match. The other match, played last week, ended in 2-0 win.

Palestine has never beaten Pakistan at every time of calling with wins over them in 2000 Asian Cup Qualifying (2-0) and a 2006 friendly (3-0) to their name.

Palestine has a 100% against Chinese Taipei. Including an historic 8-0 thrashing in 2006 World Cup Qualifying. Palestine also won in Taiwan with a shorthanded squad, 1-0.

Palestine faced off against Myanmar and the Philippines last week beating Myanmar 3-1 and being forced to settle for a 0-0 draw by Neil Etheridge and the Azkals.

Overall record vs. teams 28-43: 8 wins, 1 loss, 3 draws (+23 GD)

If Palestine take care of business in the first round they will play another home and away qualification playoff against teams ranked 6th and below. Their record against this group of teams is less convincing but with the ability to play the home leg in Palestine, fortune might swing in Al-Fursan's favor. These matches will take place July 23rd and 28th:

6. Saudi Arabia, 7. Iran, 8. Qatar, 9. Uzbekistan, 10. UAE, 11. Syria, 12. Oman, 13. Jordan, 14. Iraq, 15. Singapore, 16. China, 17. Kuwait, 18. Thailand, 19. Turkmenistan, 20. Lebanon, 21. Yemen, 22. Tajikistan, 23. Hong Kong, 24. Indonesia, 25. Kyrgyzstan, 26. Maldives, 27. India

The teams no one wants to face in this round are Saudi Arabia and Iran. Palestine would also want to avoid Uzbekistan (0-0-2, -6 GD), Iraq (0-2-10 -22 GD), and possibly China (0-0-3, -6 GD). I think most fans will be itching to get Singapore and set the record straight after Palestine's calamitous exit from 2010 World Cup Qualifying.

If Palestine gets past this stage they will progress to the third and penultimate round of qualifying. They would be placed in a group with one of the preordained Top 5 teams (Australia, Japan, Korea Republic, Korea DPR & Bahrain) along with two other teams. Each team would play each other twice over six matchdays stretching from September 2nd, 2011 - February 29th, 2012. The winner and runner up advances to the final round where the 10 teams are split into two groups. The top two teams in each group qualify directly to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The third place team in each group plays a home-and-away playoff to determine who gets to play the winner of Oceania qualifying for the right to punch the final ticket to Brazil 2014.