May 4, 2018 / 5:04 PM / 18 days ago

Australia to meet Syria as Saudi and Qatar face off at Asian Cup

DUBAI (Reuters) - Defending champions Australia will renew their rivalry with Syria at the Asian Cup finals after being drawn alongside the Middle Eastern nation on Friday for next year’s tournament.

The two nations faced off in a tense World Cup playoff in September, with the Australians narrowly advancing, and both will also meet Palestine and Jordan in Group B at the 2019 event.

Hosts the United Arab Emirates, coached by Alberto Zaccheroni, were drawn to take on Thailand, India and Bahrain in Group A while four-time champions Japan play Uzbekistan, Oman and Turkmenistan in Group F.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar - who are currently locked in a major diplomatic dispute - have been drawn in Group E with Lebanon and North Korea. Group D features Iran, Iraq, Vietnam and Yemen while South Korea take on China, Kyrgyzstan and the Philippines in Group C.

The Asian Football Confederation has introduced a prize fund of $15 million for the tournament, with the champions picking up $5 million and the runners-up earning $3 million.

The finals will kick off on Jan. 5 with the final to be played in Abu Dhabi on Feb. 1.

Reporting by Michael Church, Editing by Christian Radnedge

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