Socceroos to face Uzbekistan, Syria, India in Asian Cup
The Socceroos will relish the familiarity of Qatar and their early opponents when they kick off their bid for a second Asian Cup title via a tricky group stage against Uzbekistan, Syria and India.
In a testing path to the knockouts, Graham Arnold's charges were on Thursday night drawn to face two familiar foes in world No.74 Uzbekistan and No.90 Syria, with 101st-ranked India the clear minnows of group B.
Expectations are high after the Socceroos' run to the round of 16 at last year's World Cup, also in Qatar, which Arnold described as a "home away from home".
"Every draw is tough but very happy with that draw," Arnold said.
"Obviously having the familiarity of playing here in Qatar will help us as well.
"We've played Syria in World Cup qualifiers, we've played Uzbekistan before - we're familiar with the way that they like to play and we're looking forward to it."
The top two teams in each of the six groups progress to the round of 16, along with the four best-ranked third-placed finishers.
Arnold, who was at Thursday's draw in Qatar with Football Australia chief executive James Johnson, will eye redemption for a nightmare 2019 tournament, when Australia, the defending champions from 2015, flopped badly.
Four years ago, Australia barely sealed automatic qualification from their group, scraped through the round of 16 against Uzbekistan on penalties and were knocked out by the United Arab Emirates in the quarter-finals.
World No.29 Australia last played Uzbekistan in the round of 16 in 2019, when they drew 0-0 but ultimately progressed via a penalty shootout.
Australia beat Syria 3-2 in the group stage of the 2019 Asian Cup but famously prevailed in a dramatic play-off for the 2018 World Cup.
The Socceroos drew 1-1 away before Tim Cahill's heroic brace sealed progression via a dramatic 2-1 win at home.
Australia beat India 4-0 at their most recent meeting, in the 2011 Asian Cup.
The Asian Cup was originally due to be held in China this year but was moved amid the country's tight COVID-19 policies.
Qatar won hosting rights for the rescheduled Cup and the tournament will instead be held from January 12 until February 10 next year.
ASIAN CUP GROUPS
A: Qatar, China, Tajikistan, Lebanon
B: Australia, Uzbekistan, Syria, India
C: Iran, UAE, Hong Kong, Palestine
D: Japan, Indonesia, Iraq, Vietnam
E: South Korea, Malaysia, Jordan, Bahrain
F: Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Kyrgyzstan, Oman.