TOKYO: Defending champions Japan face a stern test from Iran, Oman and Thailand in the group stage of the 2004 Asian Cup in China after the draw was made in Chongqing yesterday.
Japan, who won the Asian title in Lebanon in 2000, will play their Group D matches in the western city of Chongqing, one of four venues being used at the 16-team tournament which takes place from July 17-Aug 7.
Japan are one of four seeded teams, along with China, South Korea and Saudi Arabia.
“There will be no easy games,” said Japan's Brazilian coach Zico.
Japan will still expect to beat Thailand but Oman could spring an upset in their opening match on July 20 after beating South Korea during the qualifying tournament.
However, three-times winners Iran will pose the biggest threat to Japan when the two teams meet in their final Group D match on July 28.
South Korea were drawn alongside Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan in Group B in what appears a slightly easier assignment.
Hosts China will face Qatar, Indonesia and Bahrain in Group A and will be helped by playing their first-round matches in Beijing.
ASIAN CUP DRAW
Group A (Beijing): China, Qatar, Indonesia, Bahrain.
Group B (Jinan): South Korea, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Jordan.
Group C (Chengdu): Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan.
Group D (Chongqing): Japan, Iran, Thailand, Oman. – Reuters