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UAE to face Bahrain in 2019 Asian Cup opener

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AFC Asian Cup Draw : As It Happened

At the draw ceremony for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, India's captain Sunil Chhetri appeared to have picked the best group possible for his team.

Meanwhile Iran, Iraq, Vietnam and Yemen are in Group D, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and North Korea are in Group E, while four-time champions Japan, Uzbekistan, Oman and Turkmenistan are in Group F. Kyrgyzstan and China are ranked 75 and 73 in the FIFA World Rankings while South Korea are head and shoulders above the trio at 61.

India will play 2 games in Abu Dhabi and one game will be played at Sharjah.

Much will be expected of the UAE, who host the tournament for only the second time in their history, despite a relatively modest start to 2011 Asian Cup-winner Alberto Zaccheroni's tenure.

"The World Cup is massively important in laying a platform for the Asian Cup", added the man who left his post as Western Sydney Wanderers assistant to take up his position as Postecoglou's assistant months before their 2014 AFC Champions League triumph over Al Hilal. He scored two goals out of three by his team in the 2011 edition in Doha.

India coach Stephen Constantine said: "I think it's a group that gives us expectations. I am pleased to announce tonight that the prize money for the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 will total nearly 15 million dollars and the winners of the AFC Asian Cup 2019 will collect 5 million dollars".

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"I believe that we can qualify for the knockout stages".

The next Asian Cup is the first to feature 24 teams.

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. Additionally, the new trophy for the competition was presented. Instead, they have been clubbed with hosts UAE in Group A, along with Thailand and Bahrain.

A year ago, India's rise in Federation Internationale de Football Association rankings sparked optimism that the team placed 97th cannot only qualify for the Asian Cup, but also surprise a few stronger nations.

Shaikh Salman said: "Since 1956 we have had the same trophy and in keeping with the new and exciting future of the competition, the AFC chose to commission a new trophy, one that captures the excitement and drama of the tournament ahead".

The Philippine Azkals have a tough group waiting for them when they begin their historic first ever AFC Asian Cup campaign in early 2019.

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