Amer Shafi of Jordan Image Credit: Supplied

AUSTRALIA

Coach: Graham Arnold
Star player: Tom Rogic
Previous appearances: three
Best finish: won 2015
Last time out: won, 2015
World ranking: 41

In only three editions since switching over from Oceania to Asia in 2006, Australia have made the quarters, finished second and won. They now head in as favourites once again, despite having undergone a complete overhaul with three coaches in the space of a year and their entire old guard retiring after the World Cup, where they finished bottom of their group in Russia. Hope is now in youth and with the strands of experience they have left. It should be enough to see them top the group and reach the latter stages, but they are no longer dead certs.

SYRIA

Coach: Bernd Stange
Star player: Omar Al Somah
Previous appearances: five
Best finish: group
Last time out: group, 2011
World ranking: 74

Were a day away from being kicked out of 2018 World Cup qualifying because war at home meant they couldn’t play inside Syria. Malaysia then stepped in at the last minute to host all their home games, before they embarked on an amazing run all the way to the play-offs. They held Australia 1-1 in Kuala Lumpur, only to lose 2-1 in extra time in Sydney, missing a last gasp equaliser. Now they have the chance to avenge a weaker Australian side, while also reuniting with familiar Arab neighbours Palestine and Jordan. If the same Syria side turn up things could get interesting.

PALESTINE

Coach: Noureddine Ould Ali
Star player: Jonathan Cantillana
Previous appearances: one
Best finish: group 2015
Last time out: group 2015
World ranking: 99

Everyone’s favourite underdog thanks to the adversity they’ve had to overcome to get this far. Israel often refuses to let players based in the Gaza Strip travel. These hardships force them to play and train outside the country. They also benefit from a strong Palestinian diaspora, particularly in South America, where a large number of their players were born before reconnecting with their roots. The first and last time they qualified came in 2015 by beating Philippines in the AFC Challenge Cup but they failed to get out of the group. After recent friendly draws with China and Iran, perhaps these tenacious battlers can do more.

JORDAN

Coach: Vital Borkelmans
Star player: Amer Shafi
Previous appearances: three
Best finish: quarters, 2004, 2011
Last time out: group, 2015
World ranking: 109

Two-time quarter-finalists despite just three appearances, Jordan are the side that no one sees coming. Like Syria they also have good World Cup qualifying experience against Australia, who they kick-off against in this competition. They first beat the Socceroos 2-0 at home in their second round of AFC qualification for the 2018 World Cup and then lost 5-1 away to finish second in their group, just missing out on being one of the four best runners-up. If they can summon the spirit of what they last did in front of home support against Australia, a good start could lead to an even better run.