India to play Myanmar in 2012 Olympic qualifiers 1st round

New Delhi : India will play Myanmar in the first round of 2012 London Olympics men`s football competition on February 23 and March 9 next year in the home and away format.

Thirty-five teams have entered the fray to grab the three-and-a-half slots reserved for the continent for the Olympics.

The 22 lowest ranked teams, based on the qualifiers and final round of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, were drawn to play in a home-and-away format on February 23 and March 9, 2011, with the winners making it to round two.

The 11 winners from the first round will join the 13 highest ranked teams in the second round where they will again play in a home-and-away format on June 19 and 23, 2011.

The 12 winners will then be divided into three groups of four teams each in the third round. Again, a home-and-away format from September 21, 2011 to March 14, 2012, will determine the winners who will represent the continent in the Olympics.

Three second-placed teams from the third round will play in a playoff at a centralised venue from March 25 to 29, 2012, and the winners of this group will meet the representatives of CAF for a berth in the Olympics.

India had played against Myanmar in their 2008 Beijing Olympic qualifiers. India had advanced to the second round after beating Myanmar 4-1 in Kolkata on February 4, 2007 before drawing 1-1 in Yangon three days later.

Meanwhile, India have been placed in Group B of the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup qualifying round along with Turkmenistan, Pakistan and the winner of play-off three.

India had won the 2008 edition of the competition at home and qualified for the 2011 AFC Asian Cup in Qatar for the first time after 1984.

Defending champions DPR Korea were placed in Group D with Nepal, Sri Lanka and the winner of play-off one.

The eight lowest-ranked teams out of 20, which entered the fray, will play off on a home-and-away basis and the four winners will qualify for the 16-team group phase.

Bhutan will meet Afghanistan, the Philippines will take on Mongolia, Chinese Taipei will face Laos, and Cambodia will lock horns against Macau in the play-offs to be played on
February 9 and 16, 2011.

The group stage will be played between March 20 to 31, 2011 and the hosts will be announced later.