0436 GMT July 22, 2019
Iran will face Yemen, Vietnam and Iraq at the group stage of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup which is to be held in the UAE next January.
The final draw for the competition took place in Dubai’s Burj Khalifa on Friday where 24 Asian qualified teams were drawn into six groups.
Three-time Asian champion Iran – seeking to end the 43-year wait for a fourth trophy – will play the Middle Eastern side Yemen in their Group D opener on January 7.
The Asian powerhouse will go head to head with Vietnam – a quarterfinalist in 2007 – on January 12 before squaring off against the 2007 champion of the competition Iraq on the final day of the group fixtures on January 15 in a repeat of the 2015 quarterfinal meeting between the two sides in Australia when the Iraqis won in the penalty shootouts.
Meanwhile, the UAE – pitted in Group A – will kick off the Asia’s most prestigious tournament against Bahrain at the Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi on January 5.
The host team will be looking to improve on its second-place finish the last time the competition was held in the UAE in 1996, but will face formidable opponents in India and Thailand which complete the cast in the group.
The defending champion Australia was drawn in Group B with 2004 and 2011 quarterfinalists Jordan, Palestine and Syria.
Asian giant and the 2015 runner-up South Korea – which is on the hunt for its first title since 1960 – is given challenges by two-time runner-up China and two debutants Kyrgyz Republic and Philippines in Group C.
In Group E, two-time champion Saudi Arabia will play the 2011 host Qatar, Lebanon, and North Korea.
The competition’s most decorated side with four titles, Japan is in Group F and will face Uzbekistan, which has progressed past the group phase in all last four editions of the competition as well as Oman and Turkmenistan.
The Zayed Sports City Stadium will also be the host venue for the final of the 17th edition of the Asian Cup on February 1 next year.