AFC U-23 Championship China 2018 groups revealed in Changzhou
The ceremony, held at the Traders Fudu Hotel’s Zuan Shi Tin Ballroom, separated the 16 qualified teams into four groups for next January’s flagship Asian youth competition.
The hosts – automatically assigned to Group A – will also meet Qatar and Uzbekistan after opening their campaign in Changzhou against Oman on January 9.
First-time qualifiers Palestine were drawn with 2016 champions Japan, as well as DPR Korea and Thailand, while fellow debutants Malaysia drew a strong group containing Iraq, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
The draw produced a number match-ups which are sure to be highly anticipated, none more so than the match between Asian heavyweights Korea Republic and Australia, to be held in Kushan, in a Group D which also contains Syria and Vietnam.
The ceremony also revealed the tournament’s four host cities with Changzhou, Kunshan, Jiangyin and Changshu - all located in Jiangsu Province - to host the tournament’s 32 matches.
“From our hosting experience with the Chinese Football Association, we have no doubt that the 2018 AFC U23 Championship will raise the bar,” said AFC Director of Competitions Shin Man Gil, who conducted the draw.
Changzhou will act as the tournament’s headquarters, and Changzhou Olympic Sports Centre will host nine matches, including the tournament opener between China PR and Oman on January 9, and the final on January 27.
The AFC U-23 Championship is second only to the AFC Asian Cup among Asia’s men’s national team competitions, with the 2018 edition the first time it will be held in the world’s most populous country.