Journey to Thailand 2020 begins [AFC]

Journey to Thailand 2020 begins [AFC]

Kuala Lumpur: The journey to the AFC U23 Championship Thailand 2020 Qualifiers has begun following the official draw ceremony at the AFC House on Wednesday.

The Draw divided the 44 participating teams into two zones of WEST (West + South + Central) with 24 teams, and EAST (East + ASEAN) with 20 teams.

Qatar will host Group A as they aim to make their third appearance in the AFC U23 Championship Finals. They will face Oman, Nepal and Afghanistan.

Group B host Bahrain will attempt qualifying for the Finals for the fourth time, as they go up against Palestine, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

Islamic Republic of Iran, the host nation for Group C, will test their mettle against Iraq, Turkmenistan and Yemen.

Saudi Arabia, the 2013 runners-up, will be aiming to better their previous best result after failing to progress past the group stage in January. They host United Arab Emirates, Lebanon and Maldives in Group D.

Kuwait were among the first teams to participate in the first-ever AFC U23 Championship in 2013, and will bid to reach the Finals again when they face Jordan, Syria and Kyrgyz Republic in Group E.

Reigning champions and Group F hosts Uzbekistan will begin their title defence against Tajikistan, India and Pakistan in Group F.

Mongolia will be counting on home support when they host Group G, going up against DPR Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Cambodia have yet to reach the Finals but they are determined to impress when they welcome Korea Republic, Australia and Chinese Taipei in Group H.

After missing out on two editions, Group I host Myanmar, will play against 2016 winners Japan, Timor-Leste and Macau.

Group J host Malaysia, who reached the quarter-finals of the competition for the first time in their history in January, are set to host China PR, Laos and Philippines.

Vietnam, who finished runners-up in the 2018 edition, will host Group K, where they will meet Thailand, Indonesia and Brunei Darussalam.

The 11 group winners and four best second-placed teams will qualify for the Finals, with the host nation of the Finals receiving automatic qualification.

In the event that the host of the Finals, Thailand, finish among the qualified teams to the Finals (either top of the group or one of the four best second-placed teams), the next (fifth) second-placed team in the ranking among all groups will qualify to the Finals instead.

The 2020 Qualifiers will be held on March 22-26, 2019.