The Blue Tigers labelled the AFC Asian Cup China 2023 Final Round Qualifiers draw as an “interesting” one, and echoed the need to believe in the abilities within the squad in India’s quest to qualify to the AFC Asian Cup twice in a row for the first time.
India have been drawn in Group D with Hong Kong, Afghanistan, and Cambodia, and begin their campaign on June 8 at the VYBK Kolkata against Cambodia. The top teams from each of the six groups, and the five best second-placed teams will earn a ticket to the Asian Cup in China which is scheduled to be held next year.
“It looks like an interesting draw. We have played against Cambodia and Afghanistan in the recent past, and from experience I can tell you they weren’t easy games. They pose an extreme challenge every time we play them – so none of the games will be easy,” Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu said referring to the draw.
“We need to believe in our abilities, and go out with 100 percent conviction to qualify for the AFC Asian Cup. Once we have that mindset and goal, there’s nothing that can stop us,” Gurpreet added.
Current AIFF Player of the Year, and central defender Sandesh Jhingan expressed that there are “no easy games in modern day football.”
“All playing nations have improved a lot, and hence, there are no easy games. A lot depends on us. We are confident and a talented bunch. The potential is huge, and the mentality is rock solid. We need to stick to the plan, and give our best. Everyone is looking forward to it,” Sandesh uttered.
Defender Pritam Kotal reiterated that hosting the matches in Kolkata is in itself a “huge advantage.”
“The preparation for the matches starts from today. Playing in Kolkata will be a huge advantage for us. We need to make the most of it. I hope that all players stay away from injuries for us to go all out to earn the ticket to China,” he added.
As part of the preparation for the final round of the qualifiers, the Blue Tigers will play two International Friendlies against Bahrain, and Belarus on March 23, and March 26 respectively – both of which are to be held in Bahrain.