Arnold is excited by Australia's draw

Socceroos coach Graham Arnold is excited by the draw for the AFC Asian Cup in 2007 and believes Australia is a strong chance of progressing a long way into the tournament.

Socceroos coach Graham Arnold is excited by the draw for the AFC Asian Cup in 2007 and believes Australia is a strong chance of progressing a long way into the tournament.

Australia, who will be based in Bangkok during the group phase, will face Oman on July 8, followed by Iraq on July 13 and then Thailand on July 16.

“It was a good draw for us, we are in a good side of the draw,” Arnold said this morning before jumping on a flight back to Australia after last night-s draw in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

"We set our own standards at the World Cup, and going into the draw as one of the top ranked teams, we were always some chance of getting a good draw, and I'm very happy with it.

“We did get the highest ranked home nation out of the four host nations, but when they are all ranked above 120, you would consider that a game that we need to win.

“Oman is pretty much unknown to us, so we-ll need to do some good scouting on them over the next 7-8 months. Iraq we know a little bit about, we played them a couple of years ago in Sydney and also at the Olympics and seeing that they just made the final of the Asian Games, so they are not going to be an easy side either.”

Arnold was relieved after the draw to have missed a particularly tricky tie against three-time champion Saudi Arabia, who were relegated to the second pool of teams, with Australia-s participation in its first Asian Cup competition.

"The only worry I had about the draw was drawing Saudi Arabia. We could have easily had them instead of Oman and with Iraq that would have made our group a lot, lot tougher.

While admitting he knew little about Oman, Arnold doesn-t believe that will be a negative and will do plenty of research on them in the months ahead.

“That-s the beauty of going into Asia, because we don-t know too much about a lot of the Asian nations and so it-s going to be a wonderful challenge for us.

“The Arab nations play a totally different style of football to the East Asian nations, but we have got plenty of time to do our homework on them. There-s still eight months before the first game and no doubt they will have friendly games and they are going to prepare and we will be able to get out and scout them.”

There is no doubt where Arnold expects to finish in the group stage, not just because that are the expectations of the team, but the benefits finishing on top brings along with it.

“Massive,” Arnold said emphatically, when asked if staying in Bangkok for the quarter final was a major reason to finish on top of the group.

"The least traveling you can do, especially when you've got to go from country to country in this tournament with four different hosts, if we win the group we can stay in Thailand and the team that finishes second in group B will have to travel to us and play on the field that we have already played on three times. That would be nice," he said.

Arnold is also wary of the expectations that are already been placed on this team, having already heard that we are favourites with the book makers in Australia.

"Expectations are high after what we did at the World Cup, but the World Cup's finished," he said.

"It's something that we've got to reproduce. We are going to be going into a totally different environment than the European culture, which most of the players are familiar with; we are going to go into very humid and hot conditions, and we've got to make sure our preparation is just as spot on as it was for the World Cup.”

Arnold plans to give the players a good holiday before preparations start that will include a 10-day camp in the lead-in to the tournament, plus an easy warm-up match.

The full list of matches for the AFC Asian Cup is listed below.

Kick-off times are TBA.

July 7 Thailand v Iraq (Group A), Bangkok

July 8 Australia v Oman (Group A), Bangkok Vietnam v United Arab Emirates (Group B), Hanoi

July 9 Japan v Qatar (Group B), Hanoi

July 10 Malaysia v China (Group C), Kuala Lumpur Indonesia v Bahrain (Group D), Jakarta

July 11 Iran v Uzbekistan (Group C), Kuala Lumpur Korea Republic v Saudi Arabia (Group D), Jakarta

July 12 Oman v Thailand (Group A), Bangkok Qatar v Vietnam (Group B), Hanoi

July 13 Iraq v Australia (Group A), Bangkok United Arab Emirates v Japan (Group B), Hanoi

July 14 Uzbekistan v Malaysia (Group C), Kuala Lumpur Saudi Arabia v Indonesia (Group D), Jakarta

July 15 China v Iran (Group C), Kuala Lumpur Bahrain v Korea Republic (Group D), Jakarta

July 16 Thailand v Australia (Group A), Bangkok Oman v Iraq (Group A), Bangkok Vietnam v Japan (Group B), Hanoi Qatar v United Arab Emirates (Group B), Hanoi

July 18 Malaysia v Iran (Group C), Kuala Lumpur Uzbekistan v China (Group C), Kuala Lumpur Indonesia v Korea Republic (Group D), Jakarta Saudi Arabia v Bahrain (Group D), Jakarta

July 21 Quarter-final 1 (winner Group A v runner-up Group B), Bangkok Quarter-final 3 (winner Group B v runner-up Group A), Hanoi

July 22 Quarter-final 2 (winner Group C v runner-up Group D), Kuala Lumpur Quarter-final 4 (winner Group D v runner-up Group C), Jakarta

July 25 Semi-final 1 (winner Quarter-final 1 v winner Quarter-final 2), TBA Semi-final 2 (winner Quarter-final 3 v winner Quarter-final 4), TBA

July 28 3rd/4th playoff (loser Semi-final 1 v loser Semi-final 2), TBA

July 29 Final (winner Semi-final 1 v winner Semi-final 2), Jakarta