KUALA LUMPUR – The Harimau Malaya squad now has the best opportunity to qualify for the 2023 Asian Cup in China with the home ground advantage after Malaysia was selected as one of the six hosts for the final round qualifiers in June.
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) in a statement today also listed India, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia and Uzbekistan as hosts for the qualifiers to determine the remaining 11 teams that will advance to the Finals that will be played at 10 cities across China.
China and the top 12 teams from the second round of 2022 World Cup/2023 Asian Cup qualifiers have already booked their spots, including defending champion Qatar, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia and Australia.
Now in the final round qualifiers, 24 nations are set to fight for the 11 spots set to be played on June 8, 11 and 14, with only the winners of six groups and five best runners-up will advance.
The draw will be held on Feb 24 virtually at the AFC House in Bukit Jalil, where the teams will be divided into five seeding pots based on Feb 10 FIFA rankings.
Pot 1 will comprise Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, India, Bahrain, Jordan and Palestine, while Thailand, Tajikistan, Philippines, Turkmenistan and Hong Kong will be in Pot 2.
Malaysia together with Afghanistan, Yemen, Myanmar, Maldives and Indonesia will be in Pot 3, while Singapore, Nepal, Cambodia, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in Pot 4.
“The six host nations will be taken from their seeding pot and placed in a separate host pot in order to prevent them from being drawn into the same group, although their final group positions will reflect their original draw seeding,” AFC said in a statement.
Malaysia last qualified for the Asian Cup on merit in the 1980 Kuwait edition, while in 2007, the Harimau Malaya squad featured as joint hosts with Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.