India were on Thursday drawn in a tough Group B of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup alongside the continent’s heavyweights Australia, Syria and Uzbekistan here. The draw was conducted at the Qatar Opera House in the Qatari capital.
The Blue Tigers, who are placed at 101 in the FIFA rankings, will be playing the Asian Cup for the fifth time. India’s opponents in the tournament proper, Australia are ranked 29th in the world, Uzbekistan are 74th, and Syria occupy the 90th position.
All India Football Federation (AIFF) president Kalyan Chaubey, senior men’s national team head coach Igor Stimac, and women’s side coach Maymol Rocky were present at the venue for the official draw ceremony.
Beginning from Pot 4, India were the first team to be drawn into Group B, gaining B4, after which they were placed alongside Syria (B3), Uzbekistan (B2) and Australia (B1), respectively.
Speaking ahead of the draw, Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa said, “The last time the AFC Asian Cup was played in Qatar was 12 years ago, and there has been great progress since then. We have also initiated key enhancements.
“There are 24 teams in the AFC Asian Cup now, a new trophy, and USD 15 million in prize money. The impact is clear to see. On behalf of the Asian football family, I would like to express our gratitude to the QFA and the LOC, and we also thank the 24 participating nations.”
Maymol Rocky, who was conducting the draw along with other representatives from around Asia, said, “This is the first time that India has qualified for consecutive editions of the AFC Asian Cup, and its a fantastic opportunity for our country to be back at this stage.”
In other groups, tournament hosts and defending champions Qatar are the top seeded team in Group A with their title defence to begin against two-time runners-up China, followed by matches against Tajikistan and Lebanon.
Three-time winners Iran, 1996 runners-up United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong, China and Palestine will vie for the knockout stage spots in Group C while record four-time winners Japan, Indonesia, 2007 champions Iraq and Vietnam were drawn in Group D.
Twice champions South Korea, the top seeded team in Group E, will have Malaysia, Jordan and Bahrain to contend with while Group F will have three-time winners Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Kyrgyz Republic and Oman fighting for the knockout stage spots. The top two teams from each group will directly qualify for the Round of 16, while the four best third-placed teams will join them in the knockouts to make up the numbers.
India were eliminated in the groups stage in the last edition in the UAE, despite kicking off their campaign with a convincing win against Thailand.
Groupings: Group A: Qatar, China PR, Tajikistan, Lebanon Group B: Australia, Uzbekistan, Syria, India Group C: IR Iran, United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong, Palestine Group D: Japan, Indonesia, Iraq, Vietnam Group E: Korea Republic, Malaysia, Jordan, Bahrain Group F: Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Kyrgyz Republic, Oman.
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