KARACHI: Pakistan were on Thursday bracketed in Group D with the 2016 champions Japan, hosts Bahrain and Palestine as Asian Football Confederation (AFC) held draws of the AFC Under-23 Asian Championship Qatar 2024 Qualifiers at its headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.
Pakistan will begin their journey on September 6, 2023, against Japan in Bahrain. On September 9 the Green-shirts will lock horns with Bahrain and on September 12 they will be pitted against Palestine.
The hopefuls were divided into 11 groups, ten groups of four teams each, with the last group containing three outfits. To be played from September 4 to 12 this year, Group A of the Qualifiers will have hosts Jordan, Syria, Oman and Brunei Darussalam vying for the sole automatic ticket to the Finals.
Group B will see 2020 champions Korea Republic (H), Myanmar, Kyrgyz Republic and Qatar contesting with Vietnam (H), Singapore, Yemen and Guam the Group C cast. The 2018 champions Uzbekistan (hosts), Islamic Republic of Iran, Hong Kong, China and Afghanistan were drawn in Group E.
The AFC U23 Asian Cup Qatar 2024 Finals are scheduled for April 15 to May 3, 2024. The 11 group winners and four best second-placed outfits will join hosts Qatar in the next year’s Finals. Pakistan head coach Shehzad Anwar was happy that Pakistan were placed in strong group.
“Our group is strong which is a blessing for us. You know 80 percent players in our senior team are under-23 and they will get three good matches in September which will help us in preparation for the October World Cup Qualifiers,” Shehzad said.
“You know Japan are the tough team but we know about them as we have played against them in the Asian Games as well,” Shehzad said. “I hope we will make top effort in the event and the desirable outcome will be achieved,” said Shehzad, also an AFC Pro License coach.
Shehzad said that after SAFF Cup the second phase of the National Challenge Cup will be held and it will be followed by the national Under-23 team camp for the AFC Under-23 Asian Championship Qatar 2024 Qualifiers.
This correspondent learnt that football think tanks on Thursday put their heads together to decide the time-frame of the national senior team camp for the SAFF Cup. It is expected that the camp will begin by the end of this month. The SAFF Cup is scheduled to be hosted by India in Bengaluru from June 21 to July 4.