Oman 1 point shy of Korea after ruling

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Oman 1 point shy of Korea after ruling

The men’s football team’s bid to compete at the 2012 London Olympics took an unexpected turn when the Asian Football Confederation handed a victory to group rivals Oman after overturning its initial draw against Qatar in last year’s qualifier.

The AFC announced on Wednesday that Oman - originally sitting in second place in Group A behind Korea with one win, one draw and one loss - will be awarded a 3-0 win for the game they played against Qatar on Nov. 27 after the team sent an ineligible player on the pitch on during the final round of the Asian Olympic qualifiers. The game ended in a 1-1 stalemate.

The Asian football governing body said that Qatari midfielder Abdelaziz Hatim should not have featured in the match against Oman since the player had been booked against India during the second round of qualifiers before picking up another yellow card against Korea on Nov. 23.

The Qatar Football Association has been fined $7,600 while the team has now slipped to third place in Group A with two points.

With three matches left for each team, the AFC’s decision leaves Oman with two wins and one loss, moving up from four points to six points in Group A. The Gulf nation is now only one point shy of Korea, leading the group with seven points - two wins and one draw.

Oman is now plus three in goal differential, the same tally as Korea. The team, managed by Hamed al-Azzani, has scored five goals, one more than Korea. If the teams are level on points at the end of the group stage, the final rank is determined by goal differential and then goals scored.

Seeking its seventh straight Olympic appearance and ninth overall, Korea is scheduled to face Saudi Arabia on the road on Sunday and will meet Oman on Feb. 22, also on the road. Its final qualifier is scheduled for March 14 against Qatar at home.

The Under-23 team, led by coach Hong Myung-bo, thought it had a cushion heading into the final three matches, but with Oman just one point behind after the AFC’s ruling, the team now faces more pressure to win on the road and is likely to have to fight for first place until the end.

In the Asian qualifiers for the Olympics, only the winners of the three groups advance to London, while the runners-up go through two rounds of playoffs.

The second-placed nations will first play in a round-robin playoff before the winner faces Senegal, the fourth-placed team from the African qualifiers, to earn a pass to the Summer Games.

Hong’s team started 2012 with positive results. It won the 41st King’s Cup, a friendly football tournament in Thailand last month, after collecting two wins and a draw in round-robin play against Norway, Thailand and Denmark.

Since Hong took the helm last March, the team hasn’t lost a single match, marking eight wins and three draws. However, two of the three draws came from away matches against Middle Eastern teams.

The team drew 1-1 with Jordan in the preliminary round last June before sharing a point with Qatar last November, also a 1-1 stalemate.

The squad arrived in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, yesterday.

By Joo Kyung-don []
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