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Kuala Terengganu: As the dust begins to settle on the 2017 AFC Beach Soccer Championship, the top three finishers - Islamic Republic of Iran, the United Arab Emirates and Japan – have wasted little time in turning their attention to the upcoming FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.

The AFC Beach Soccer Championship in Malaysia served as the qualifying competition for the global get-together, with champions Iran and runners-up the UAE leading the charge, and Japan claiming the third and final ticket to the Bahamas after they beat Lebanon in an enthralling third-place Play-off.

As the clock continues to tick down towards the start of the World Cup on April 27, the Asian trio are already busily preparing for the challenges ahead – a locking of horns with the world’s elite that two of this year’s AFC Beach Soccer Championship stars believe the continent’s finest are more than equipped to handle.

“All the teams in the semi-finals were very good and, I believe, are the best in Asia,” Iran goalkeeper Seyed Hosseini told the-AFC.com.

“We’d predicted that we’d be going to the semi-finals and final and we had been preparing for this competition for a year. Qualifying for the World Cup was also one of our targets.

“We all took the games seriously but Japan to me were the toughest opponents in this competition. Japan and the UAE went way back as we had a long history of playing each other. Since the last tournament [in 2015], it’s always been difficult to face Japan.

“These three teams fully deserved qualification to the Wold Cup. We’re the top three in Asia. I’m sure we can do a good job in flying the Asian flag in the World Cup and increase the standards of Asian beach soccer."

Meanwhile, UAE veteran Ali Karim has echoed Hosseini’s sentiments, adding that he believes Asia''s three representatives have what it takes to reach the World Cup semi-finals.

“Iran are Asia's top team in world beach soccer and they also have finished second after Brazil at in the 2016 Beach Soccer Intercontinental Cup. Japan are not far behind Iran with their own strengths,” said Karim, who is also a futsal and football referee in his home country.

“I’m sure the three of us have a chance to make a big impact for Asia. We have a strong chance to reach the semi-finals of the world showpiece and then who knows, we could well be in the final.”

Photos: AFC