Former champions to meet in qualifying

Former champions to meet in qualifying

Three-time champions Saudi Arabia and 2007 winners Iraq will face off as the two former continental champions seek to qualify for the AFC Asian Cup Australia 2015 following Tuesday’s preliminary round draw in Melbourne.

Iraq are drawn into Group C

With only two teams from each of the five groups guaranteed qualification for the finals, which will take place in Australia in January 2015, former finalists China as well as Indonesia make-up an intriguing Group C alongside 1984, 1988 and 1996 champions Saudi Arabia and Iraq, who claimed a historic win in 2007 after beating the Green Falcons 1-0 in the final.

Jordan will meet neighbours Syria as well as Oman and Singapore in Group A once the qualifying campaign begins in February 2013, while three-time champions Iran head Group B alongside Kuwait, Thailand and Lebanon.

Uzbekistan, who reached the semi-finals in 2011, will face the United Arab Emirates, Vietnam and Hong Kong in Group E, while Group D contains 2011 hosts Qatar, Bahrain, Yemen and Malaysia.

Defending champions Japan, hosts Australia and Korea Republic – who finished third in the 2011 edition of the tournament – have all qualified automatically for the finals.

DPR Korea, winners of the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup, and the champions in the 2014 edition of the same competition will also feature at the finals.

“The preliminary draw has thrown up some great contests, and we are sure to see some exciting matches over the next 18 months,” said AFC Acting President Zhang Jilong.

“We’re thrilled that AFC’s newest member, Australia, will be hosting Asia’s flagship national team competition for the first time.”

The AFC Asian Cup will be held in January 2015 with matches played in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and Brisbane while the qualifying tournament will begin in February 2013 and will run through to March the following year.

“This will be the largest football competition ever staged in our country,” said Frank Lowy, Chairman Football Federation Australia and the Local Organising Committee.

“It will be a feast of international football, and we’re confident that Australian’s will get behind all 16 teams, as we have shown for other major events.”

Meanwhile, the finals of the AFC Asian Cup Australia 2015 moved a step closer to reality as the official tournament logo was launched prior to the draw.

Designed by Sydney agency Witekite, the unveiling of the logo marks the next major move towards Australia’s hosting of the tournament in which the Socceroos will seek to become Asian champions for the first time.

Michael Brown, CEO of the Local Organising Committee said that the logo reflects an event that will be a festival of football.

“It will be celebrated in January, the height of the Australian summer holiday season, so the colour palette is warm, festive and embracing of all participants from across Asia,” he said.

“The logo needed to embody the values of the competition, represent of the host nation and most importantly excite and connect fans, teams and stakeholders. We believe the designers have done a great job in achieving all three aims.”

The logo depicts a stylised player, kicking a football from the east coast towards the rest of Asia, with the ball also representing the Australian summer sun arcing west from Australia to Asia.

The four golden bands forming the map of Australia represent the four host cities and the design is completed by the Australia 2015 script, in a relaxed personal hand-written style.

AFC Asian Cup Australia 2015 Preliminary Draw

Group A: Jordan, Syria, Oman, Singapore
Group B: IR Iran, Kuwait, Thailand, Lebanon
Group C: Iraq, China PR, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia
Group D: Qatar, Bahrain, Yemen, Malaysia
Group E: Uzbekistan, United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, Hong Kong

World Sport Group

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