Japan begin Asian Cup defence against qualifiers

Holders Japan will begin their Asian Cup defence in 2015 with a fixture against the winners of the AFC Challenge Cup.

The draw for the competition, which runs from January 9 in Australia next year, took place in Sydney on Wednesday as four-time winners Japan were also grouped with Jordan and Iraq. 

Alberto Zaccheroni's men find out who will complete Group D when the AFC Challenge Cup finishes on May 30.

The entrants in that competition are Laos, Turkmenistan, Philippines, Kyrgyzstan, Palestine, Myanmar, Afghanistan and the hosts Maldives. 

Asian Cup hosts and 2011 finalists Australia face Kuwait in their competition's opening game at the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium, with South Korea and Oman also going into Group A. 

Three-time winners Saudi Arabia get their campaign under way against China at the Brisbane Stadium in Group B, while Uzbekistan and North Korea meet on the same day.

Group D sees Iran fight it out for progression against the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain. 

Iran have not won the competition since 1976 but will be favourites to progress from the group as the highest ranked team in Asia, sitting 42nd in the FIFA world rankings.

They are also one of four nations in the tournament to have qualified for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, along with the hosts, the defending champions, and South Korea.

Groups in full:

Group A: Australia, Kuwait, Oman, South Korea.

Group B: China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan.

Group C: Bahrain, Iran, Qatar, United Arab Emirates.

Group D: Iraq, Japan, Jordan, AFC Challenge Cup winners.


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