Hong Kong have been given a kind draw for the final qualifying stage of the 2023 Asian Cup, but when manager Jorn Andersen will actually be able to prepare his side for the tournament in June remains uncertain. A surge in Covid-19 infections across the city has resulted in strict social-distancing measures being enforced, and sport has been banned since January. Officials recently extended the lockdown to April 20, and the domestic football season is expected to be abandoned entirely . Thursday’s draw, which took place at the Asian Football Confederation headquarters in Malaysia, placed Hong Kong against India, Afghanistan and Cambodia in group D. “Given the current epidemic situation in Hong Kong, it is difficult to be as competitive as we would wish to be when facing our opponents in Asia,” Andersen said. “The draw has placed us in a tight group, which is interesting because there could be many different possibilities.” The top team from each of the six groups will advance to the finals in China next year, along with the five best runners up. The region’s top 13 teams have already booked their spots at the tournament through 2022 World Cup qualification. Hong Kong were placed in pot 2 for the draw in accordance with their Fifa ranking, and were fortunate to avoid pot 1 giants such as Bahrain, Jordan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. India, who will host the group, were also in pot 1. Pui Kwan-kay, chairman of the Hong Kong Football Association, said under normal circumstances the team could be confident of qualifying, but the lack of football and not knowing when that might change could cause problems. New Hong Kong football coach Andersen wants ‘offensive, attractive’ style One option for the side, Pui said, could be if the FA was allowed to use its Football Training Centre in Tseung Kwan O, although like all sports grounds in the city that has been closed since January. “It’s an ideal venue but we need to discuss with the authorities to get an exemption for using the centre,” he said. “Also, we need to solve the problem of not infringing the current social-distancing measures as only two people are allowed to get together under the rules. “Another option is to bring the whole team for an overseas training stint but it will incur a considerable budget which we need to sort out.” Hong Kong have a good track record against Cambodia, and have never lost to the Southeast Asia nation over seven encounters since 1957, with six wins and one draw. The last two matches involving the sides came in 2019 during the 2022 World Cup qualifiers under previous manager Mixu Paatelainen, when Hong Kong secured a 1-1 draw in the away leg, before beating Cambodia 2-0 at home. Hong Kong have not faced India for more than a decade, but beat them twice, 2-1 and 1-0, during international friendlies in 2009 and 2010. Hong Kong played out a goalless draw against Afghanistan when they met in 1984. Football chief praises Hong Kong despite World Cup qualifier loss James Ha, who scored against Cambodia in the home game, believes his side has a real chance to progress. “The draw is quite favourable, but the problem remains the shutdown of the domestic season,” the Kwoon Chung Southern forward said. “We do not know when we can get back to training at club level and with the Hong Kong team assignment coming, the authorities should find a solution.” Andersen, who was appointed in December, has named a preliminary squad of 30 players with Ha among them, but there is still no plan of when the team will get together for the first time. The AFC has already allocated India as the host nation for group D, with the four teams playing in Kolkata. Hong Kong face Afghanistan on June 8, before taking on Cambodia on June 11, with the last match against India three days later on June 14. Hong Kong last qualified for the Asian Cup finals in Iran in 1968 when they finished fourth out of five teams after three defeats and one draw. Meanwhile, Eastern Long Lions will travel to Tainan City for their AFC Cup group J matches towards the end of June. The group also includes MUST CPK of Macau, and hosts Tainan City of Taiwan. Either Hong Kong’s Lee Man, or Athletic 220 from Mongolia, will complete the group, with the two sides expected to meet in a playoff.