Hosts Malaysia will face a tough challenge in the 2018 AFC U-16 Championship, which will take place from September 20 to October 7.
The draw held at the AFC House on Thursday pitted Lim Teong Kim's boys in Group A against Japan, Thailand and Tajikistan – the first two already got the better of them in the past year.
Japan, who were also the 1994 and 2006 winners, defeated them 4-0 in last year's qualifying stage and 2-1 in the 2017 JENESYS Japan-ASEAN U-16 Youth Football Tournament, while Thailand sent them packing during the 2017 AFF U-15 Championship.
In other groups, Southeast Asian neighbours Vietnam and Indonesia were drawn together in Group C alongside 2016 runners-up Iran and SAFF U-15 winners India.
Defending champions Iraq are in Group D against Korea Republic, Australia and Afghanistan, and Group B consists of DPR Korea, Oman, Yemen and Jordan.
The top four teams of the tournament will qualify for the 2019 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Peru.
Malaysia's best performance in the competition came in 2014 when they reached the quarter-finals.
In the previous edition in 2016, they crashed out in the group stage.