With the showpiece of Asian football kicking off in Australia on Friday, our reporter Matt Monaghan guides us through the teams competing in Groups A and B.
Coach: Mahdi Ali
Coach: Marjan Eid
Best finish: Fourth place (2004)
Star player: Mohamed Husain
One to watch: Abdulla Helal
Strengths: Can only improve after dire Gulf Cup campaign under Adnan Hamad. Number of experienced players are back in squad.
Weaknesses: Real dearth of talent compared to group rivals. Can caretaker Eid inspire them?
Verdict: Look like cannon fodder in the competition’s toughest pool. Even a win looks unlikely.
Coach: Carlos Queiroz
Best finish: Champions (1968, 1972, 1976)
Star player: Reza Ghoochannejhad
One to watch: Sardar Azmoun
Strengths: Queiroz has made the Princes of Persia incredibly hard to beat, with Argentina’s last-gasp World Cup victory as evidence.
Weaknesses: Obvious counter point is lack of goals. Iran media are also no friends of Queiroz, leading to poisonous atmosphere.
Verdict: Have nous to challenge for the title. Potential semi-final with Australia is one to watch.
Coach: Djamel Belmadi
Best finish: Quarter-finals (2000, 2011)
Star player: Khalfan Ibrahim
One to watch: Boualem Khoukhi
Strengths: Belmadi has engineered a tight side able to flourish on the counter-attack through inventive Ibrahim and Khoukhi.
Weaknesses: If flair players are not at best, can look very one-dimensional. No natural replacement for discarded Sebastian Soria up top.
Verdict: November’s Gulf Cup win could take them far. Anything possible if progress past daunting group.
Coach: Javier Aguirre
Best finish: Champions (1992, 2000, 2004, 2011)
Star player: Keisuke Honda
One to watch: Hiroshi Kiyotake
Strengths: An established force in world football, nearly half the players play abroad. Position as holders gives belief.
Weaknesses: No outstanding forward to convert chances from delightful midfield.
Verdict: The champions will take some stopping Down Under. The team to beat.
Coach: Ray Wilkins
Best finish: Quarterfinal (2004, 2011)
Star player: Odai Al Saify
One to watch: Khalil Bani Attiah
Strengths: An underrated force in Asian football, only defeat to Uruguay in play-off preventing World Cup 2014 appearance.
Weaknesses: Recent form is awful, losing seven of last 10 matches.
Verdict: If Wilkins can return Jordan to their best, could be dark horses for competition.
Coach: Radhi Shenaishil
Best finish: Champions (2007)
Star player: Humam Tariq
One to watch: Justin Meram
Strengths: On-loan boss Shenaishil has a young squad, eager to prove themselves after November’s awful Gulf Cup showing.
Weaknesses: Onus is on veteran Younus Mahmood to score, but striker is without a club.
Verdict: A quarter-final exit would be a creditable return from the Lions of Mesopotamia.
Coach: Ahmed Al Hassan
Best finish: N/A
Star player: Ashraf Al Fawaghra
One to watch: Mahmoud Dhadha
Strengths: Still riding wave from 2014 AFC Challenge Cup victory. Striker Al Fawaghra is proven in Saudi Arabian top flight.
Weaknesses: One of lowestranked teams in competition. Coach Al Hassan was only installed in October.
Verdict: Group D is Asian Cup’s weakest, but it will still be too tall an order to advance.
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