The thrilling road to Asia's flagship men's national team tournament will move into sharp focus when the AFC Asian Cup China 2023 Qualifiers Final Round Draw is held virtually in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Thursday, February 24 at 3pm (local time).
With less than 500 days until China PR hosts the Continent's premier men's showpiece for the first time since 2004, aspiring nations from Asia will discover their opponents for the crucial final Group Stage.
While 13 teams, including host China PR, have already qualified by virtue of their earlier performances in the second round of the AFC Asian Qualifiers, the final 11 places remain up for grabs for 24 teams in the decisive Group Stage to be held in June across all five AFC zones in six host nations – India, Kuwait, Kyrgyz Republic, Malaysia, Mongolia and Uzbekistan.
Among the 24 teams still vying for a place at China 2023, six have never appeared in the AFC Asian Cup™, while the likes of Hong Kong and Cambodia will be hopeful of qualifying for the first time in over half a century, with the winners and five best runners-up of the six centralised qualifying groups to complete the field for the quadrennial showpiece event.
Based on the FIFA World Rankings as of February 10, the 24 participating teams will be divided into five seeding Pots, including the Host MAs Pot.
The six Host MAs 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.
As such, within the six Host MAs, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyz Republic and India will be placed in position 1 of their Final Round groups, with Kuwait, Malaysia and Mongolia to fill positions 2, 3 and 4 of their respective groups
Pot 1, which contains the teams ranked 1-6, except for the host MAs, will feature Bahrain, Jordan and Palestine, while Thailand, Tajikistan, Philippines, Turkmenistan and Hong Kong will be drawn from Pot 2.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan, Yemen, Myanmar, Maldives and Indonesia will occupy Pot 3, with Singapore, Nepal, Cambodia, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka completing Pot 4.
Following the Host MAs, each group will feature one team from each Pot with the teams from Pot 4 to be drawn first.
The AFC Asian Cup China 2023™ Qualifiers Final Round will be held across three Matchdays on June 8, 11 and 14, 2022, while the AFC Asian Cup China 2023™ kicks off on June 16, 2023.