Socceroos to face their nearly nemesis Syria, Jordan and Palestine

The Socceroos have been handed what might be termed an interesting, and definitely testing, group when they kick off their defence of the Asian Cup in the UAE early next year.

Australia will face Syria, so nearly their nemesis in the recent World Cup qualifiers, Jordan, who beat Ange Postecoglou's men in Amman in one of the earlier group games in qualification for the 2018 World Cup, and Palestine.

Graham Arnold will be in charge by then following this year's World Cup and will inevitably be benchmarked against Ange Postecoglou, who won the 2015 edition of the tournament, albeit on home soil.

The next Asian Cup is the first to feature 24 teams. The decision to extend the format has brought criticism in some quarters, with opponents arguing it will mean a number of poor and moderate teams will qualify and with that increase the chance of blow outs.

Those who favour a larger competition point out that taking on better opponents is the only way that weaker nations will improve, while cash strapped developing soccer states can also only benefit from the financial rewards that qualification may bring.

Australia won their maiden AFC Asian Cup in 2015 on home soil when a goal from James Troisi in extra time sealed a win over South Korea.

This country only joined the Asian region in 2006, but already its record is formidable, having reached a quarter final (lost on penalties to Japan) in 2007, lost the final in extra time to Japan in 2011 and then won it in 2015.

The Socceroos will not get things their own way against Syria or Jordan.

The former caused then boss Postecoglou's team major concerns in October 2017 when it took a last gasp headed goal from Tim Cahill in extra time to take Australia through the Asian play off and into the deciding game with Honduras.

Jordan defeated Australia 2-0 in the first phase of Asian qualifying and are always hard to beat in their own region. The Socceroos have never played the Palestinians.

Palestine came through their qualifying group after finishing second on goal difference to Oman, scoring 25 times and conceding only three courtesy of heavy wins over Bhutan and the Maldives.

They did also manage to beat the Omanis 2-1 in their first encounter, losing 1-0 to an 88th minute goal the second time they played.

The Asian Cup will be played out in eight venues in four cities (Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, and Al Ain). The tournament will kick-off in Abu Dhabi on 5 January 2019, and conclude in the same city on 1 February.

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