Azkals grouped with Uzbekistan, Bahrain, DPR Korea, Yemen in FIFA World Cup qualifiers

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(CNN Philippines) — Uzbekistan, Bahrain, DPR Korea, and Yemen.

Those are the countries in Group H that the Philippine Azkals will face in the preliminary joint qualification round two for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

The groupings, which will also apply for the 2019 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup qualifiers, were determined after the official draw took place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Tuesday (April 14).

Group A has UAE, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Timor-Leste, and Malaysia, while Group B contains Australia, Jordan, Tajikistan, Krygzstan, and Bangladesh.

China, Qatar, Maldives, Bhutan, and Hong Kong make up Group C, while Iran, Oman, India, Turkmenistan, and Guam are in Group D.

Roped in Group E are Japan, Syria, Afghanistan, Singapore, Cambodia. Group F has Iraq, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, and Chinese Taipei, while Group G consists of Korea Republic, Kuwait, Lebanon, Myanmar, and Laos.

The competition will use a home-and-away round robin format, ensuring that each team plays eight games from June 11, 2015 up to March 29, 2016.

The top 12 teams will advance to the third round of the World Cup Qualifiers and automatically make the 2019 AFC Asian Cup finals.

It was the first time the draw merged the qualification process of the FIFA World Cup and the AFC Asian Cup.

'Hard work begins'

Azkal players Neil Etheridge and Rob Gier went on social media to express their thoughts on the results of the draw.

“Tough draw but I think any group would have been tough. I think we might surprise a few people this year,” Gier tweeted.

Etheridge chimed on Gier’s sentiments, saying: “No group is ever easy going to the World Cup!”

For team manager Dan Palami, now comes the toughest part for the Azkals - preparing for the matches.

The Philippine Azkals' road to Russia will begin against Bahrain on June 11.