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Ghotbi is confident of glory

Afshin Ghotbi is confident Team Melli will complete their journey to South Africa even if they must go through the play-offs.

TEHRAN // Iran's hopes of reaching the 2010 World Cup might seem a bit slim at the moment, but coach Afshin Ghotbi is confident Team Melli will complete their journey to South Africa even if they must go through the play-offs. Iran occupy fourth position in Group B with seven points. South Korea lead the table and are already assured of one of the two automatic qualifying spots from the group.

In their last game, Ghotbi's side were held to a goalless draw in Pyongyang by North Korea on Saturday. The result means they must beat the UAE tonight and then conquer South Korea in Seoul a week later to secure at least third place in the group for a spot in the play-offs. North Korea (11 points) and Saudi Arabia (10 points) are in a better position, but Ghotbi is confident his side can upstage the other two.

"The result against North Korea has not decreased our hopes of qualifying one bit; it has only changed our route to qualification," said Ghotbi. "We would have been happy with three points in Pyongyang, but I still think getting one point has taken us one step closer to qualification. I believe that a lot of things can happen in this five-team group because the point differences are small and, apart from the UAE, anyone can qualify. I hope in the next eight days, we will record a memorable fate in our quest to qualify for the World Cup."

Asia have four automatic qualifying berths and three of them have already been decided. Japan and Australia have booked their tickets from Group A, while South Korea have confirmed their seventh consecutive World Cup appearance. The third-placed teams from the two Asian groups will play each other for the right to take on Oceania winners New Zealand for a place in South Africa. arizvi@thenational.ae

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