Hosts Australia and reigning champions Japan will be keen to avoid fellow heavyweights Korea Republic when officials draw the groups for next year's 2015 AFC Asian Cup at a lavish ceremony on Wednesday. Korea Republic, who have reached eight FIFA World Cups™ in a row, lurk as dangerous floaters in the second pot of teams after temporarily falling outside Asia's top four when the seedings were decided.
Australia, four-time winners Japan, triple champions Iran and Uzbekistan make up the top tier and will be placed at the head of separate groups for the draw at the Sydney Opera House. As well as Korea Republic, Jordan, who reached Asia's intercontinental play-off for a World Cup spot, and three-time winners Saudi Arabia loom as threats in the second tier.
And with 2007 champions Iraq, and sleeping giants China, in the third pot, and 2010 World Cup contestants Korea DPR in the fourth, there is the potential for some tough groups at the tournament next January. The Socceroos, who joined the Asian confederation in 2006, will hope to use home advantage to win their first Asian Cup after missing out 1-0 in extra time to Japan in the 2011 final.
But coach Ange Postecoglou said he wasn't expecting any favours from the draw after a difficult start to his reign. "I'm not planning on it (having any luck). I haven't had a lot so far," said Postecoglou, who must first navigate Australia through a tough Group B at Brazil 2014.
"But that's okay," Postecoglou explained. "At the end of the day, regardless of our draw we're at home and we're playing at a major tournament in our country and we want to do well." The trophy will arrive by boat at the Opera House and be handed over by former Asian Cup winners, Iraq's Younis Mahmoud and Takashi Fukunishi from Japan, to ex-Socceroo Brett Emerton ahead of the ceremony.
2015 AFC Asian Cup Draw
Wednesday, 26 March
Pot 1: Australia, Iran, Japan, Uzbekistan
Pot 2: Korea Republic, UAE, Jordan, Saudi Arabia
Pot 3: Oman, China, Qatar, Iraq
Pot 4: Bahrain, Kuwait, Korea DPR, winners of 2014 AFC Challenge Cup (TBC)