Kuwait crisis may favour Thais (October 31, 2007)

World governing body Fifa has suspended Kuwait from all international football activities, a move that is likely to benefit Thailand's World Cup qualifying campaign.

Fifa said the punishment was for the Kuwaiti government's interference in its football association's affairs and for infringing its own statutes as well as failing to comply with a decision passed by the Fifa executive committee.

Kuwait held elections for key posts in its Football Association on October 9 but Fifa and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) refused to recognise the polls.

If the suspension is not lifted in time, the Gulf state will be out of the 2010 World Cup qualifiers.

Thailand, who defeated Macau in Asian Zone's first qualifying round, could progress to the third round or meet Hong Kong in the second round instead of Yemen who are considered stronger than Hong Kong.

Kuwait reached the third round as the eight seeds after they got a bye in the first round against Bhutan.''Meeting Hong Kong is a bit better than Yemen,'' said Thailand coach Chanvit Phalajivin.

''We would not have to travel too far and the climate and food are similar to that in Thailand.''

In a complicated situation, the AFC has not yet made a decision on the matter.

The top five seeds _ Australia, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Iran _ go directly to the third round. The highest 11 seeded winners from the first round qualify for the third round and the other eight teams take part in the second round.

Thailand are seeded 14th. Without Kuwait and Palestine, who were seeded higher than Thailand and who failed to competed in the first round, Thailand would become 12th seeds.

But without Kuwait, there would be only seven teams in the second round. So Thailand, the highest seeds among the group, could go directly to the third round.

Also yesterday, Lebanon reached the next round of the Asian zone qualifiers after a 2-2 draw against hosts India in the return leg of the first round in Goa.

Faisal Antar scored both of Lebanon's second-half goals as the team went through 6-3 on aggregate, having won 4-1 in the first leg at home on Oct. 9.

Sunil Chetri gave India a 1-0 half-time lead but his side were reduced to 10 men after goalkeeper Subrata Pal was sent off in the 69th minute.

Captain Bhaichung Bhutia scored in the dying stages to achieve the draw.

The match was postponed from Sunday and switched from Chennai to Margao, Goa, because of heavy rain.