I just remembered, the Asian Cup draws came out 5 days ago. Missed it.
But here they are.
Challenge Cup Winner (???)
Wow...what can I say. Plenty of pros and cons (especially pros this time around).
The good news is our team will have experience going into this tournament after the World Cup. Unlike the last Asian Cup, we won't be relying so much on rotated talent from our domestic league, but more proven talent from abroad, few veterans, and the actual talent from our domestic league that will probably have actual impact this time around. So the material we're working with is pretty solid, there are rumors Quieroz will stay until the end of Asia Cup, I think that's a big possibility, and I think if that happens, that's huge for us as our previous coach was much weaker.
Australia, South Korea, Oman, and Kuwait, were teams that gave us a problem in the past, the good news is we avoided at least Australia and South Korea from Group A.
Group B is like a group of death for teams that are usually a level below South Korea and Japan. I think we'd have our chances against most of those teams but I'm glad our group isn't anything like that at all.
Group D also has Japan, Iraq, and a Jordan side that's been improving under a good coach.
Now let's take a look at our group.
UAE usually gives us less trouble than Kuwait. We have an overwhelming h2h against them and the time we narrowly defeated them and drew them was in qualifiers for I believe the 2010 World Cup. I don't know if they've improved much, but we're considerably a much greater team than we were then.
Qatar is a more dangerous team in comparison. They have a few naturalized talents who have shown up in bigger games for them recently. They've played physical with us especially in hot weather where we've struggled creatively against them but eventually after some ugly draws we were able to get a victory over them for our 2014 WCQs.
Bahrain is a team in crisis. They're no longer a threat to us like they were a decade ago. They're arguably one of the easier teams you could face out of the 16 teams.
The most important thing here is that Australia is pretty damn hot in January. So if our guys are not able to handle the heat, playing any of these 3 Arab-based teams, could be just as awful as having to play them away at their homes. Realistically I think at the very worst, we should be able to grab a win over Bahrain and UAE. I expect Qatar to be the first real test in this group because of the heat, they play well in hot weather, so they might play defensive and retort to counter football and grind out a draw.
Quieroz believes this would be one of the best opportunities for Iran to place 1st, 2nd, or 3rd after having a long drought in Asia Cup. I think it would be a realistic goal considering we reached the QFs with a poor team and a poor coach and only lost 1-0 to Korea. If that's the case it would be ideal to go further, especially if Japan and South Korea, are still in crisis, and if we're able to avoid Australia in the KO's. But I think weather will be the biggest factor in this tournament. If we're able to cope with that, it should be a fun interesting tournament (I hope).