SLIDESHOW: The 20 teams vying for qualification to the 2015 Asian Cup

The stage is set on Wednesday as 20 Asian nations begin their quest to reach the 2015 edition of the tournament in Australia and unseat reigning champions Japan
By Niloufar Momeni

While most of Asia’s top teams are focused on qualifying for next year’s World Cup, for others the campaign begins this week to qualify for another storied competition: the 2015 Asian Cup. With hosts Australia, 2011 winners Japan and third-place South Korea, and 2012 AFC Challenge Cup winners North Korea having automatically qualified, the remaining clubs must fight hard if they are to advance.

20 national teams in total are contesting 11 spots, with the top two teams from each group and the best third-place team among all five groups advancing. The assembled 16 sides (which will also include the winner of the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup) will contest the Asian Cup over over three weeks in January 2015, with Sydney, Melbourne, Queensland and Canberra to host the matches.

In this feature, contributor Nilou Momeni introduces all 20 teams in the qualifiers and tell you what their chances are in the coming months.

Start the slideshow here!