Asian Cup draw made in Melbourne
By Football News
Past champions Iraq and Saudi Arabia have been drawn in the same qualifying group for the 2015 Asian Cup in Australia.
With Asian heavyweights the Socceroos, Japan, Korea Republic, and DPR Korea already qualified for the tournament, 20 teams were drawn into five groups in Melbourne on Tuesday.
Iraq, the 2007 champions, who take on Australia in a crucial World Cup qualifier next week, have been placed in arguably the group of death alongside three-time champions Saudi Arabia, China and Malaysia.
Iran, who are the highest ranked team in the tournament at 58th in world, were placed in Group B with Kuwait, Thailand and Lebanon.
Group A consists of Jordan, Syria, Oman and Singapore, while 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar have been drawn in Group D with Bahrain, Yemen and Malaysia.
The final group features Uzbekistan, UAE, Vietnam and Hong Kong.
The top two nations from each group will qualify for the 2015 Asian Cup with the best third-placed team from all groups also earning a ticket to Australia.
The final team will be the winner of the AFC Challenge Cup, which will be held in 2014.
Football Federation Chairman Frank Lowy said Australia was determined to deliver the best Asian Cup yet.
"This will be the largest football competition ever staged in our country," Lowy said.
"It will be a feast of international football, and we're confident that Australians will get behind all the 16 teams, as we have shown for other major events.
"We are working with five Governments to deliver AFC Asian Cup Australia 2015. Their support and expertise has been invaluable."
The tournament will be held from January 4 to 26 with matches in Victoria, New South Wales, ACT and Queensland.