Why you ask? Well, it's all to do with next year's eight-team finals in India (to be played in July 2010). The last of the qualifying spots will go to the best ranked runners up out of the four qualifying groups. That would've been easy to pick the best ranked based on points accrued or goal difference or even greater number of goals scored. However, the fly in the ointment is that the number of teams in the groups became lopsided when Afghanistan withdrew. That means the qualifiers will have played an unequal number of group matches so to ensure equality, a comparison mechanism needs to be adopted. The AFC version states that all teams must be compared across a similar number of matches, and their decision is that the result of matches between the runners up and the bottom-placed team in the group will be considered null and void. All points and goals will not be taken into account. And the best ranked runners up will then be based on the following criteria: greater number of points, goal difference, greater number of goals, fewer yellow/red cards or drawing lots.
Are you still with me? Lots of ifs and buts of course but that's always the way with qualifying group stages in major competitions. Qualification from Group A rests on the two matches being played in Bangladesh later today and they are both finely poised to bring us the thrills and spills of knock-out football. I wouldn't have it any other way.
You can read the AFC competition regulations here.