Doha:India were clubbed in a tough group, along with higher-ranked Uzbekistan and United Arab Emirates, in the 2011 AFC Asian Cup final qualifying round draw held at the Aspire dome here.
Malaysia are the fourth team in the group.
Uzbekistan and UAE are much above India in FIFA rankings at 55th and 106th positions. India, seeded 19th in the qualifying round draw, occupy 153rd spot. Malaysia are the lowest-ranked side at 166th.
India will not have to play the qualifiers if it wins the AFC Challenge Cup final round in Hyderabad from July 30 to August 10. The winners of the AFC Challenge Cup 2008 and 2010 will directly qualify for the 2011 AFC Asian Cup slated here.
India, who have not taken part in the final stages of the AFC's flagship tournament since 1988, is also set to host the 2010 AFC Challenge Cup.
In the draw, 20 teams were divided into five groups of four with top two teams from each group qualifying for the tournament along with AFC Asian Cup 2007 winners Iraq, runners-up Saudi Arabia, third placed South Korea, hosts Qatar and the champions of AFC Challenge Cup 2008 and 2010.
The Uzbeks and the UAE are the likely top two candidates from Group C. But, Bob Houghton's charges will take heart from their 1-0 win against the Arab side during the 2002 World Cup qualifiers in Bangalore before losing the return fixture by the same score line.
Group A: Japan, Bahrain, Hong Kong, Yemen
Group B: Australia, Indonesia, Oman, Kuwait
Group C: Uzbekistan, UAE, Malaysia, India
Group D: Vietnam, China, Syria, Lebanon
Group E: Iran, Thailand, Jordan, Singapore.