INTERNET DESK: Forty AFC U-23 Championship China 2018 hopefuls discovered their qualifying opponents during the stage’s official draw at AFC House in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Friday.

The ten group winners and five best second placed teams among all the groups will advance to the finals. The qualifiers will take place from July 19 to 23, 2017 in the respective host countries which are Kyrgyz Republic, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Palestine, Myanmar, North Korea, Thailand and China.

Although directly qualified as the finals host, China have expressed interest to participate in the qualifying stage. Therefore, if China finish top of their group or finish among the five best second placed teams, the next (sixth) second placed team will qualify to the final stage of the competition in January, 2018.

India received what can be viewed as the worst possible draw after being pitted in the Group C alongside Qatar, Syria and Turkmenistan, which is widely regarded as the most difficult group of the competition. Thus, India must string a number of upsets to progress to the finals.

The Blue Tigers will open their campaign against Syria on July 19, before playing Qatar on July 21. Their final group stage game against Turkmenistan is on July 23.

In other group, defending champions Iraq were also rewarded with a difficult group which forces them to take on Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Afghanistan in Group B.

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