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KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia may have avoided the ‘group of death’ but still face an uphill task after being drawn with Oman and Kyrgyzstan in Group D of the second qualifying round of the 2026 World Cup/2027 Asian Cup in November.

In the draw conducted at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) House in Bukit Jalil here today, the winner of the playoff between Taiwan and Timor Leste in October will also join Group D.

Based on the world ranking, Oman are the highest ranked at number 73, followed by Kyrgyzstan (97), Malaysia (136), Taiwan (153) and Timor-Leste (192).

None of these teams have ever qualified for the World Cup.

Malaysia had previously lost all three friendlies against Oman, with their last meeting ending in a 6-0 humbling for the Harimau Malaya in 2015. Malaysia also lost 1-0 to Kyrgyzstan in their sole meeting in 2018.

The Harimau Malaya, under the guidance of head coach Kim Pan Gon (pix), created history last year when they ended a 42-year wait to qualify on merit for the 2023 Asian Cup.

Meanwhile, four-time Asian Cup champions Japan have been drawn in Group B, the group of death, with Syria, North Korea and the winner of the playoff between Myanmar and Macau.

All eyes will also be on Group G, which features three-time Asian Cup champions Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Tajikistan and the winner of the playoff between Cambodia and Pakistan.

Only the top two teams from each group will book a spot in the 2027 Asian Cup Finals and compete in the third qualifying round of the 2026 World Cup.

The bottom two teams from each group can still earn a place in the Asia Cup Finals via round three of the qualifiers. -Bernama