By Daniel Etchells

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup will be held outside the continent for the first time in its history ©AFCAustralia is braced to host the 2015 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup, marking the first time the tournament has been held outside the continent it represents.

First staged in 1956, the quadrennial Asian Cup is the second oldest continental championship in world football - behind South America's Copa América - with the 16th edition set to get underway tomorrow.

Australia will be competing in only their third Asian Cup having transferred from the Oceania Football Confederation to the AFC in 2006. 

The Socceroos were eliminated by Japan in the quarter-finals in 2007 and suffered defeat at the hands of the same opposition in the 2011 final.  

The top three teams at the 2011 edition - Japan, Australia and South Korea - qualified automatically for this year's tournament, as did the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup winners, North Korea.

The quartet are joined by Iran, Kuwait, Oman, Uzbekistan, the United Arab of Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, China, Iraq, Qatar and the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup winners Palestine, first-time qualifiers for a major tournament since they were admitted to FIFA in 1998. 

As recently as last week, Australia was one of only two countries, along with the United States, to vote against the United Nations Security Council's proposal to establish Palestine as a state and end Israel's occupation of its territories by 2017. 

Stadium Australia in Sydney is scheduled to host the AFC Asian Cup final on January 31 ©Getty ImagesStadium Australia in Sydney is scheduled to host the AFC Asian Cup final on January 31 ©Getty Images

Australia begin their campaign against 1980 champions Kuwait in tomorrow's opening match at the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium, before going on to face Oman and South Korea, back-to-back winners in 1956 and 1960, in their two other Group A encounters.

Group B is headlined by three-time champions Saudi Arabia, with Uzbekistan, North Korea and China also battling for a place in the knockout stage. 

Iran, champions in 1968, 1972 and 1976, meet Bahrain in their opening Group C match before taking on two of the competition's dark horses, Qatar and the UAE.

Holders Japan, winner of four of the last six Asian Cups, start the defence of their title against Palestine, while Jordan and 2007 champions Iraq make up the remainder of Group D.

The top two teams from each group will advance to the quarter-finals and fight for a place in the final at Stadium Australia in Sydney on January 31.

The group stage is scheduled to take place between January 9 and 20, before the quarter-finals on January 22 and 23, the semi-finals on January 26 and 27 and the third place playoff on January 30.

As well as the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium and Stadium Australia, matches will also be played at the Canberra Stadium, the Brisbane Stadium and the Newcastle Stadium.

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