The draw for the qualifying stage of the inaugural AFC U-22 Asian Cup took place at AFC House on Tuesday with 41 continental countries being drawn in seven groups.
All the qualifying matches will be organized from June 23rd to July 3rd 2012 and the finals will be played in 2013 while the next edition of the biennial competition (2015) will serve as qualifiers for the 2016 Olympics.
Addressing the media during the opening of the draw, AFC Executive Director of Competitions Windsor John said:
"This is the latest tournament we have introduced, so this draw in itself is a histori event. The AFC is views this competition as the second biggest national team competition, giving prominence and importance to the development of competitions for both the AFC and member associations."
"This competition will serve as a qualifier for the Olympics, beginning with Rio in 2016, so we hope there will be greater attention from the fans as well as the member associations to reflect this competition's stature as the second biggest tournament of AFC for national teams.
"With the introduction of this competition we have now laid the foundation for a very structured development path for the footballers in Asia with the AFC already having competitions for under 16s and under 19s."
A total of 23 countries will feature in the qualifying rounds for the West Zone while 18 nations will compete in the East Zone featuring seven groups of either six or five teams. The top two teams of the one-round league (14 in total) will qualify for next year's finals while a berth is also available for one best third-placed team and the AFC U-22 Asian Cup 2013 hosts.
Group A: UAE, Iraq, Oman, India, Turkmenistan, Lebanon
Group B: Saudi Arabia, Syria, Pakistan, Palestine, Kyrgyzstan, Sri Lanka
Group C: Bahrain, IR Iran, Tajikistan, Qatar, Kuwait, Maldives
Group D: Uzbekistan, Jordan, Yemen, Bangladesh, Nepal
Group E: Australia, Japan, Indonesia, Singapore, Macau, Timor-Leste
Group F: DPR Korea, China PR, Thailand, Hong Kong, Laos, Cambodia
Group G: Korea Republic, Vietnam, Malaysia, Myanmar, Chinese Taipei, Philippines