Socceroos in top spot for Asian Cup

Host nation Australia will take their place among the top seeds for the 2015 AFC Asian Cup draw, organisers confirmed.

Ange Postecoglou’s men will join Asia’s highest-ranked teams Iran, Japan and Uzbekistan in Pot 1 with the rest of the countries distributed throughout Pots 2, 3, and 4 based on the FIFA rankings released last week.

Australia dropped to 63 in the latest rankings – their lowest position in almost a decade – and behind teams Korea Republic and United Arab Emirates, who join Jordan and Saudi Arabia in Pot 2.

The draw takes place at the Sydney Opera House on March 26 where the Socceroos will occupy A1 spot of Pot 1.

Asia’s showpiece tournament kicks off on January 9 next year and will feature 15 confirmed sides plus the winner of the AFC Challenge Cup 2014, which takes place in the Maldives in May.

The 16 teams will be divided into four groups with one team from each pot.

Defending champions Japan, 2015 hosts Australia and Korea Republic received direct entry to the finals by finishing first, second and third respectively at the 2011 AFC Asian Cup in Qatar, while DPR Korea sealed their place courtesy of victory in the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup.

Emerging from the qualifying campaign were group winners Oman, Bahrain, Iran, UAE, Saudi Arabia and runners up Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait, Uzbekistan and Iraq. China booked their place as the best third-place finisher among the five groups.

Australia will avoid arch rivals Japan in the group stage. The Samurai Blue bundled the Aussies out of their first Asian Cup in the quarter-final round in 2007 and took the prize four years later when they edged the Socceroos 1-0 in the final.

The seedings are:

Pot 1 (teams ranked 1-4): Australia, Iran, Japan, Uzbekistan

Pot 2 (teams ranked 5-8): Korea Republic, UAE, Jordan, Saudi Arabia

Pot 3 (teams ranked 9-12): Oman, China, Qatar, Iraq

Pot 4 (teams ranked 13-16): Bahrain, Kuwait, DPR Korea and Challenge Cup 2014 winners.