Asia takes first steps on road to 2022 World Cup in Qatar

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — 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, grouped with powerhouses such as Japan, Australia, South Korea and Iran.

Malaysia, the highest-ranked team in the first round at 168th 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 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.

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