Asian Cup good World Cup test, says AFC chief

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Doha, Jan 24 (AFP) Asian football chief Mohamed BinHammam has praised Qatar''s hosting of the Asian Cup, callingit the perfect rehearsal for the World Cup in 2022.

Bin Hammam, himself a Qatari, who was instrumental inhelping bring the World Cup to his homeland, also hailed thequality of football on show at the continental showpiece.

"It''s been an extremely well organised event by Qatar,"said the Asian Football Confederation president, who has notruled out running against FIFA boss Sepp Blatter when hestands for re-election in May.

"Although it is 12 years (sic) between now and 2022, itwas a very good rehearsal for that competition."

The tiny but wealthy country has thrown plenty of moneyat the Asian Cup -- the stadiums are shiny and modern, theorganisation is excellent, facilities are top-notch andcommunications work flawlessly.

But the fans have been missing and it is sorely lackingatmosphere.

There were barely 2,000 supporters to watch powerhousesJapan and Saudi Arabia, while less than 4,000 witnessedChina''s thrilling showdown with Uzbekistan and a similarnumber saw Australia beat Bahrain.

Even hosts Qatar were not able to drum up enough fans tofill the stadium when they faced Japan in a thrillingquarter-final, their biggest match in years.

Bin Hammam, though, has been pleased with the standard offootball.

"This tournament has provided so many teams with such agood standard," he told the AFC website ahead of tomorrow''ssemi-finals, which see South Korea face Japan and Australiatake on Uzbekistan.

"At least 10 teams are a very good standard.

"Uzbekistan was not a surprise but they have produced avery good standard and we have Japan, South Korea andAustralia, some of the best teams in Asia and they representedus at the World Cup.

"But Qatar played very well; Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Syria.

There are a lot of countries that played well."

Ultimately, though, it is East Asian teams that onceagain dominate, with Bin Hammam diplomatic on the failure ofany Gulf sides to make the last four.

"I think it''s a good achievement for East Asia but Iremain president of all of Asia. East and West for me areequal," he said.

"A lot of West Asian teams provided very good footballbut at the end of the day we have to accept that football, andsport in general, is about winning and losing and we have toaccept that in a sporting spirit.

"For me, whoever plays in the final are the teams thatare representing me." (AFP) SNK

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