Defending champions Australia will come up against familiar foes Syria at next January’s AFC Asian Cup 2019 in United Arab Emirates.
The Socceroos were drawn in Group B on Friday and will also face Palestine and Jordan, although their biggest challengers for top spot is are likely to be the Syrians, whom they met as recently as last October.
On that occasion, it was Australia who emerged triumphant 3-2 on aggregate in the fourth and final round of the Asian qualifiers for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Four-time champions Japan, the most successful side in the tournament’s history, was handed a fairly straightforward route to the Round of 16 as they were pitted against Uzbekistan, Oman and Turkmenistan in Group F.
Korea Republic, runners-up in 2015, find themselves in Group C and will take on China PR, along with two debutants in Kyrgyz Republic and Philippines.
Group E is shaping up to be one of the most-competitive with Saudi Arabia and Qatar leading the way, while Lebanon and DPR Korea are no pushovers.
Likewise, IR Iran, Iraq, Vietnam and Yemen look set to deliver some real battles in Group D.
Finally, hosts United Arab Emirates will take on Thailand, India and Bahrain in Group A.
Featuring 24 teams for the first time in Asian Cup history, the expanded format will now see each group’s winners and runners-up advance to the Round of 16, along with the four best-performing third-placed teams.
GROUP A: United Arab Emirates, Thailand, India, Bahrain
GROUP B: Australia, Syria, Palestine, Jordan
GROUP C: Korea Republic, China PR, Kyrgyz Republic, Philippines
GROUP D: IR Iran, Iraq, Vietnam, Yemen
GROUP E: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Lebanon, DPR Korea
GROUP F: Japan, Uzbekistan, Oman, Turkmenistan