Australia's Tim Cahill heads home the winning goal against Syria during their 2018 World Cup football qualifying match in Sydney on October 10 last year. Picture: William West/AFP
Australia's Tim Cahill heads home the winning goal against Syria during their 2018 World Cup football qualifying match in Sydney on October 10 last year. Picture: William West/AFP

Socceroos’ Asian Cup opponents revealed

THEIR grip on the Asian Cup is about to be released - now the Socceroos know who they will have to play at the start of their title defence.

Australia will take on Syria, Palestine and Jordan in Group B at the Asian Cup in January, a relatively benign introduction for Graham Arnold in what will be his first major assignment once he takes over from Bert van Marwijk as coach after the World Cup.

As defending champions, after defeating South Korea in the final in 2015 under Ange Postecoglou, Australia will travel to the tournament in the UAE with confidence.

Easing their path further, the tournament has been expanded to 24 teams from 16, meaning several of the third-placed teams will progress from the group stage to the round of 16.

If Australia top their group, which they will be favourites to do, they will face the best-ranked third place team from one of three groups, before a potential quarter-final with rivals Japan.

In their group, Syria pose the most obvious test for Australia after pushing them all the way in October's World Cup playoff - coming within the width of the post at the end of the second leg of knocking the Socceroos out.

 

Tim Cahill celebrates a goal against Syria.
Tim Cahill celebrates a goal against Syria.

 

But Jordan also have recent success against the Socceroos, defeating them in World Cup qualifiers at home in both 2012 and 2015 - though equally also losing heavily to the green and gold on Australian soil in each cycle.

Palestine will be an unknown quantity, having never played Australia since they were admitted as a national team by FIFA in 1998.

They reached the Asian Cup for the first time in the last edition, coming bottom of their group after losing to Japan, Iraq, and Jordan.

Arnold officially takes over the Australian side in July, with Football Federation Australia expected to arrange a series of warm-up games in October and November - helped by the new international breaks to be incorporated into the A-League calendar.

The 2019 Asian Cup will be played at eight venues in four cities in the UAE - Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Al Ain -  in a tournament that will run from January 5 to February 1.

ASIAN CUP DRAW:

GROUP A: United Arab Emirates, Thailand, India, Bahrain

GROUP B: Australia Syria, Palestine, Jordan

GROUP C: South Korea, China, Kyrgyzstan, Philippines

GROUP D: Iran, Iraq, Vietnam, Yemen

GROUP E: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Lebanon, North Korea

GROUP F: Japan, Uzbekistan, Oman, Turkmenistan