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Kuala Lumpur: The race to qualify for the 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup in Jordan is set to begin on Monday, with a total of eighteen teams - as well as Jordan who will host the finals - scheduled to get their campaigns underway in Tajikistan, DPR Korea, Palestine and Vietnam.

Asia’s finest are looking to join reigning champions Japan, Australia and China - the competition’s top three finishers in 2014 who have all automatically qualified - as well as host nation Jordan in the finals next April. The latest edition of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup will once again serve as the continent’s qualifying competition for the FIFA Women’s World Cup a year later in France.

In Group A, Jordan will be looking to lay down an early marker safe in the knowledge that, as 2018 hosts, they too have secured automatic qualification to the continental gathering. The West Asians, who qualified for the 2014 AFC Women’s Asian Cup but failed to go beyond the Group Stage, have Bahrain, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Tajikistan and the Philippines for company in a group where the runners-up are assured of progress should Jordan finish top.

Meanwhile, Group B sees three-time AFC Women’s Asian Cup champions DPR Korea playing host to Hong Kong, Uzbekistan, Korea Republic and India - their opponents on Matchday One. Despite the East Asians being firm favourites to win the group, both Hong Kong, who have finished fourth on three occasions, and an Uzbekistan side vying to reach the finals for a fifth time, will be determined to upset the odds in Pyongyang. Meanwhile another Asian heavyweight in the shape of Korea Republic, fourth-place finishers in 2014 and recent runners-up at the Cyprus Cup, face India in their opener on Matchday Two.

Elsewhere, only three teams - Palestine, Thailand and Chinese Taipei - will be in the hunt for the one ticket to Jordan 2018 from Group C following the withdrawal of Lebanon and Guam. Group hosts Palestine will start their campaign by entertaining Southeast Asian powerhouse Thailand, who finished fifth at the 2014 edition of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup, while three-time winners Chinese Taipei face the Palestinians on Matchday Two.

And finally, Myanmar, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Syria and Singapore will all convene in Hanoi, with Vietnam set to undertake hosting duties in Group D. The Iranians are bidding to reach their first finals and will look to make a bright start against the experience of Myanmar who have appeared at four previous tournaments. Singapore, meanwhile, are out to reach their first finals since 2003 and come up against Syria on Matchday One. Hosts Vietnam will face Syria on Matchday Two.

Matchday One
April 3, 2017, Monday

Group A
Bahrain v Jordan

Kick-off: 1300hrs
Venue: Republican Central Stadium, Dushanbe

Iraq v Tajikistan
Kick-off: 1600hrs
Venue: Republican Central Stadium, Dushanbe

Philippines v UAE
Kick-off: 1900hrs
Venue: Republican Central Stadium, Dushanbe

Group B
DPR Korea v India

Kick-off: 1500hrs
Venue: Kim Il Sung Stadium, Pyongyang

Hong Kong v Uzbekistan
Kick-off: 1800hrs
Venue: Kim Il Sung Stadium, Pyongyang

Group C
Palestine v Thailand

Kick-off: 1600hrs
Venue: Faisal Al Husseini Stadium, West Bank

Group D
Iran v Myanmar

Kick-off: 1500hrs
Venue: Vietnam YFTC Field no.3, Hanoi

Singapore v Syria
Kick-off: 1800hrs
Venue: Vietnam YFTC Field no.3, Hanoi

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Photo: AFC

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