KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia face a formidable challenge in next year's Under-23 Asian Cup after being drawn into Group D alongside former champions Uzbekistan, Vietnam, and Kuwait.
Coach Juan Torres Garrido is entrusted with preparing the Malaysian team for the mission in Doha, Qatar, on April 15-May 3.
Malaysia's best result in the tournament was reaching the quarter-finals in 2018, where they lost 2-1 to South Korea.
Team manager Datuk Seri Shahril Mokhtar, however, believes the Young Tigers have a realistic chance of going far.
"Anything can happen. I would have been worried if we were grouped with South Korea or Japan. Vietnam and Uzbekistan are familiar opponents. Generally, I'm happy with our draw, but it is still tough."
The Under-23 Asian Cup serves as a qualifier for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
The top three teams will earn automatic slots, while the fourth-placed team will have to play in the inter-confederation playoff.
In a recent interview, FA of Malaysia president Datuk Hamidin Amin urged the team to push for an Olympic spot.
Shahril said it's always good to have a target.
"Having a target is good; it keeps us going. However, I prefer to take it one step at a time. I have confidence that this team can put up a good fight against these opponents."
Only the top two teams from each of the four groups will qualify for the knockout stage.
GROUP A: QATAR, AUSTRALIA, JORDAN, INDONESIA
GROUP B: JAPAN, SOUTH KOREA, UAE, CHINA
GROUP C: SAUDI ARABIA, IRAQ, THAILAND, TAJIKISTAN
GROUP D: UZBEKISTAN, VIETNAM, KUWAIT, MALAYSIA