Hosts Australia and reigning champions Japan will be keen to avoid fellow heavyweights South Korea when officials draw the groups for next year’s Asian Cup at a lavish ceremony on Wednesday.
South Korea, who have reached eight 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 Sydney Opera House.
As well as South Korea, 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 Iran, and sleeping giants China, in the third pot, and 2010 World Cup contestants North Korea 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 first has this year’s World Cup to deal with.
“But that’s OK. 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.