Hosts China PR were drawn with 2016 semi-finalists Qatar, while reigning champions Japan will meet newcomers Palestine following a glittering AFC U-23 Championship China 2018 draw in Changzhou on Tuesday.
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.
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.
AFC U-23 Championship China 2018 draw
Group A: China PR, Qatar, Uzbekistan, Oman
Group B: Japan, DPR Korea, Thailand, Palestine
Group C: Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia
Group D: South Korea, Australia, Syria, Vietnam