Carlos Queiroz eyes World Cup clash for Iran vs. Ronaldo's Portugal
Iran coach Carlos Queiroz will take on his home nation Portugal, 2010 champions Spain and Morocco as Asia's five qualifiers for next year's World Cup finals in Russia were handed a series of demanding draws.
Former Manchester United assistant boss Queiroz coached Portugal at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa in his second stint in charge of the national team.
Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Australia also learned their fate in Moscow on Friday evening as the continent's record representation were presented with their tasks for next June.
Saudi Arabia will play in the tournament's opening game after being drawn to take on hosts Russia, as well as Egypt and Uruguay in Group A.
Shin Tae-Yong's Taeguk Warriors will meet defending champions Germany in Group F, as well as Mexico and Sweden. The Japanese will renew hostilities with Colombia, who they faced in Brazil in 2014, as well as Poland and Senegal in Group H.
The coach-less Socceroos, meanwhile, will take on France, Peru and Denmark in Group C.
Iran kick off their campaign in Group B on June 15 against the Moroccans as they go to a second consecutive finals -- and fifth in total -- harbouring hopes of a first-ever appearance in the knockout rounds.
Queiroz's team are the top-ranked in Asia, and were the first AFC team to qualify for Russia 2018. But they will face a difficult task against former champions Spain on June 20 before finishing off the group phase against Cristiano Ronaldo and reigning European champions Portugal five days later.
Saudi Arabia, under newly appointed coach Juan Antonio Pizzi, will feature in the tournament opener against hosts Russia at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on June 14. They will then meet Uruguay on June 20 and Egypt on June 25.
Vahid Halilhodzic will hope he can mastermind a better performance against Colombia than Alberto Zaccheroni managed while in charge of Japan at the last World Cup when the Samurai Blue commence their campaign on June 19 in Saransk.
The Colombians won that meeting 4-1 as Japan crashed out at the end of the group phase. But they will be determined to make a stronger start to their 2018 challenge before taking on Senegal on June 24 and Poland four days later.
The Koreans open their campaign on June 18 against the Swedes and play against Mexico five days later. Shin's team complete the group phase against the world champion Germans, who knocked the South Koreans out of the 2002 World Cup on home soil in the semifinals, on June 27 in Kazan.
Australia face the daunting task of opening their campaign against France in Kazan on June 16 as the Socceroos look to return to the form that saw them reach the Round of 16 in Germany in 2006.
The Australians will then travel to Samara to take on Denmark five days later before meeting Peru in Sochi on June 26.
Michael Church has written about Asian football for more than 20 years and mainly covers the Chinese game for ESPN FC. Twitter: @michaelrgchurch