Philippines booters draw tough Japanese in AFC U-23

Olmin Leyba (The Philippine Star) - March 19, 2017 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines faces an extremely difficult mission in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-23 Championship 2018 Qualifiers as it got powerhouse Japan as groupmate during yesterday’s draw in Kuala Lumpur.

The Pinoy U-23 booters found themselves in the same group as the Japanese, the defending champions and No. 1 seed in the East Zone, in Group J with two other tough rivals joining them, the host Chinese and the higher-seeded Cambodians.

Only the group winner and the five best second-placed teams among the 10 groups in the July 19-23 qualifying tournament will earn a ticket to the 2018 AFC U-23 tournament in China.

According to the AFC, the Chinese are already qualified to the main tourney as hosts so if they win Group J or land in the five best second-placers in the qualifiers, the next best team will advance to the finals.

Other groups in the East Zone see Korea, the runner-up in the 2016, leading Group I with Vietnam, Timor Leste and Macau; Thailand bannering Group H with Indonesia, Malaysia, and Mongolia; North Korea heading Group G with Laos, Chinese Taipei and Hong Kong; and Australia towing Myanmar, Singapore and Brunei in Group F.

Iran, the top-seeded team in the West Zone, is bunched with Oman, Kyrgyz Republic and Sri Lanka in Group A while 2016 bronze medalist Iraq is with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Afghanistan in Group B. Qatar, Syria, India and Turkmenistan make up Group C as Jordan, Tajikistan, Palestine and Bangladesh comprise Group D, and UAE, Uzbekistan, Lebanon, and Nepal are in Group D.

In the 2015 AFC U-23 qualifiers in Bangkok, Phl U-23 dropped all its Group matches to North Korea (0-4), Thailand (1-5), and Cambodia (1-3) to bow out.

PHILIPPINES BOOTERS
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