NEW DELHI: India were clubbed in Group A with Kyrgyz Republic, Myanmar and Macau as the draw for the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers UAE 2019 was held in Abu Dhabi Monday.
India begin their campaign in an away match against Myanmar on March 28.
24 Teams were drawn into 6 groups of 4 teams each and the top two team from each group will earn the ticket to the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019. India had last qualified for the AFC Asian Cup in 2011 when it was held in Doha.
National coach Stephen Constantine who attended the ceremony as an invitee said “though there are no easy games for us, the target is to win our home games and qualify for the 2019 Asian Cup.”
“We are delighted to be in the draw. We believe that the qualifying campaign was a good lesson for us as it gave us the opportunity to introduce some new players who by now have that little bit of experience of playing International Football,” he told www.the-aiff.comfrom Abu Dhabi. “We need to work extremely hard to keep alive our hopes of qualifying.”
Constantine, who is keeping a close watch on the Hero I-League proceedings, felt there are “ample opportunities for players to make their case for the national team”.
“Not that the Hero I-League has begun, any player can make his claim for a call to the camp with his performance. We will be selecting 30 players for the camp in March and previous records are not a guarantee for an automatic all up to the camp,” he stated.
Senior goalkeeper and Arjuna Awardee Subrata Paul, one of India’s outstanding performers in the 2011 AFC Asian Cup in Doha felt it would be “huge” if India qualified for the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019.
“If we can make it to UAE, we will be playing our second Asian Cup in eight years,” Paul, who was nicknamed “Spiderman’ for his exploits in the 2011 Asian Cup, said.
“The Asian Cup is the biggest Continental Championship like the Euro or the Copa America. I have fond memories of the 2011 Asian Cup. In fact, not just me but the entire squad will carry the memories with us,” he opined.
“The graph is moving upwards and the ranking coming down to 129 from 171 in less than two years is ample proof of that. To sustain the momentum, it’s essential we make the cut to UAE. The Team is improving with every day. We will try our best,” he declared.
March 28: vs Myanmar (Away).
June 13: vs Kyrgyz Republic (at Home).
September 5: vs Macau (Away).
October 10: vs Macau (at Home).
November 14: vs Myanmar (at Home).
March 27, 2018: vs Kyrgyz Republic (Away).