KUALA LUMPUR - The first steps on the road to the next World Cup were taken on Wednesday when the Asian Football Confederation held a draw for the first round of qualifying for Qatar 2022.
Twelve of Asia’s lowest-ranked teams will face each other home and away on June 6 and 11.
The six winners will progress to the second round in September and be grouped with powerhouses such as Japan, Australia, South Korea and Iran.
Malaysia, the highest-ranked team in the first round at No. 168 in the world according to FIFA, will face East Timor, while Cambodia, coached part-time by former Japan international Keisuke Honda, meets Pakistan.
In the other games, Laos hosts Bangladesh, Bhutan faces Guam while Mongolia takes on Brunei. Sri Lanka, Asia’s lowest-ranked team at No. 202, meets Macau.
The second round of qualification starts in September with 40 teams divided into eight groups of five.
The winner and the four best second-place teams will progress to the next stage and will also qualify for the 2023 Asian Cup that will be held either in China or South Korea.