SYDNEY: Hosts Australia landed an awkward opening prospect in next year’s finals of the Asian Cup after being drawn in Group A with twice former champions South Korea, Oman and Kuwait.

The draw, at Sydney Opera House, set up the Socceroos to kick off the finals against Kuwait in Melbourne on January 9. The final is in Sydney’s Olympic Stadium on February 1.

Socceroos’ coach Australia coach Ange Postecoglou said: “At some point you have to play a top team. The first game against Kuwait is a real critical one. We need to get off to a really strong start and if we can get those three points that will put pressure on the other teams.”

Champions Japan were drawn in Group D with Jordan against whom they lost in World Cup qualifying last year, 2007 Asian Cup winners Iraq and the champions of this year’s Asian Challenge Cup, which will be decided in May.

World Cup finalists Iran, the top ranked Asian team in the FIFA rankings, will play United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain in Group C.

Coach Carlos Queiroz said: “It will tough but I think Iran will have a good chance. We must play the World Cup intensively as an Asian Cup preparation. And if that happens, I think whoever comes after me has a good chance to compete for a medal.”

The draw

Group A: Australia, South Korea, Oman, Kuwait

Group B: Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia, China, North Korea

Group C: Iran, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain

Group D: Japan, Jordan, Iraq, 2014 Asian Challenge Cup winners