| Fadhil Yunus |
BRUNEI Darussalam will meet Chinese Taipei over two legs after the draw for the Preliminary Joint Qualification Round One for FIFA World Cup 2018 and the AFC Asian Cup Finals 2019 was announced at the AFC Headquarters in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
Brunei Darussalam national team will begin their World Cup qualifying stint away on March 12 and are due to contest the second leg in Bandar Seri Begawan on March 17.
The team who prevails after two legs will join the top-34 rated teams in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) in the second round.
Mike Wong, the newly assigned head coach for the Brunei Darussalam national team is likely to have a selection of players based from the top national league in the country and several key DPMM FC players.
The national team will be making an attempt to qualify only for the third time with their last appearance in a World Cup qualifying campaign coming in 2002 when they lost all six games. Brunei Darussalam, ranked 198th in the world, first competed in qualifying for the 1986 FIFA World Cup Mexico.
Their last competitive clash against Chinese Taipei was in the 2010 AFC Challenge Cup qualification when the national team were beaten 5-0 at the Sugathadasa Stadium in Colombo, Sri Lanka in April 2009.
Shanghai Greenland Shenhua combative midfielder Chen Po-Liang, who was 20 at that time, netted twice in that game. He went on to become the youngest captain in Chinese Taipei’s national team’s history following his appointment in August 2009.
The first qualifying tie will also be Brunei’s first match against a non-AFF (Asean Football Federation) member since the 2010 AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers.
Brunei’s final appearance in a recognised AFC match against a team outside the AFF were ironically Chinese Taipei. They lost all their qualifiers with their only goal coming from Kamarul Ramlee in a 5-1 defeat to Sri Lanka.
The tie of the round will surely have to be a meeting between India, the highest ranked in the 12- team qualifying draw, and bitter rivals Nepal at the Indira Gandhi Athletics Stadium in Guwahati.
The qualifying match will mark a reunion for Stephen Constantine – returning to the Indian national team in his second spell in charge as head coach – with Nepal who he also previously managed from 1999 to 2001.
The 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying for the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) section will only be held on March 23 giving Asia the honour of becoming the first governing body to kick-start the long journey in a qualifying campaign towards the FIFA World Cup in Russia.
The world’s lowest ranked team and Asia’s 46th ranked team, Bhutan will be looking for an upset against the second highest ranked team among the 12- team qualifying round, Sri Lanka.
The six victorious teams over two legs in the Preliminary Joint Qualification Round One will proceed to the second round where they will be paired alongside the top-34 rated teams in an eight- group qualifying table.
The eight winners and the four best runners-up will advance to the 2019 Asian Cup Finals- which host country is yet to be decided sometime this summer- and the final round of qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The next best 24 teams from the preliminary stage of the joint qualifiers will compete in a separate competition for the right to enter the 24-team 2019 Asian Cup finals.