AFC - IRAN will be eyeing a sixth consecutive Asian futsal crown when the World Futsal Championship Asian Qualifiers - Macau 2004 are held in the Special Administrative Region in April.
This year's event, which doubles as the 6th AFC Futsal Championship, is to be played at the Pavilhao Polidesportivo Stadium in Macau from April 16 - 25 and will feature 18 teams battling for the title of Asia's best futsal team.
Iran, the perennial Asian giants of the indoor five-a-side game have seen off all challengers since the inception of the continental championship in 1999, and will be looking for yet another title ahead of the FIFA Futsal World Championship in Chinese Taipei later this year.
The tournament draw was held in Macau during the weekend and saw the Iranians drawn with Uzbekistan, Indonesia, Cambodia and Hong Kong in Group A.
The Iranians have won every game that they have played in the Asian championship since it began but they were pushed hard by Japan in the final of last year's tournament in Tehran, with the East Asian side narrowly beaten 6-4 in the intimidating atmosphere of the Azadi Sports Hall.
Having reached the last two continental finals, Japan have been seeded as the top side in Group C, in which they will face Lebanon, Kyrgyzstan, Philippines and Macau.
The other top seeds are Kuwait and Thailand, who are in Group B and D respectively. Kuwait, the fourth place finishers last year, will take on Korea Republic, Chinese Taipei and Maldives, while South East Asian giants Thailand meet Malaysia, China and Guam.
The top two teams from each group will proceed to the quarter-finals, and the top three teams in the competition will qualify for the FIFA Futsal World Championship, which takes place in Chinese Taipei from November 29 to December 19.
World Futsal Championship Asian Qualifiers - Macau 2004
Group A: Iran, Uzbekistan, Indonesia, Cambodia, Hong Kong
Group B: Kuwait, Korea Republic, Chinese Taipei, Maldives
Group C: Japan, Lebanon, Kyrgyzstan, Philippines, Macau
Group D: Thailand, Malaysia, China, Guam.