Azkals drawn fairly in their Asian Cup debut

Posted May 07, 2018

India have the ability to qualify for the knockout stage of the 2019 Asian Cup, said national football team coach Stephen Constantine, giving wings to his players' aspirations, quite appropriately, from the world's tallest building - the Burj Khalifa.

The continental championship will be held across eight stadia in four cities in the UAE - Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah and Al Ain - January 5 to February 1 in 2019. "We played the UAE in 2015 and in the [recent] qualifiers and I look at their team and, on paper, there's so much talent, particularly going forward".

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The tough draw came two days after the Azkals were placed in Group B of the AFF Suzuki Cup alongside defending champion Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and victor of the qualification round playoff between Timor Leste and Brunei.

The one positive for the so-called smaller nations with the expanded 24-team tournament though is that not only do the top two in each progress but also four of the best third-placed teams. "Back home in India, everyone is excited and we have the blessings of all the people and we will do our best". We played against Thailand in six-seven years ago and it was a 2-2 draw.

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The political situation between the pair adds intrigue to Group E, which also features Lebanon and North Korea, but Spanish coach Sanchez believes the 2022 World Cup hosts will be focused on their on-field task. Two kids are going to official ball carriers in the World Cup, one of the matches will be Brazil vs Costa Rica and the other Panama vs Belgium. The Azkals qualified for the quadrennial meet for the first time in late March following a 2-1 victory over Tajikistan at the Rizal Stadium.

A new trophy and a new ball was also presented as the AFC formally bade farewell to Nike as its technical partner with Japanese-made Molten stepping in as the confederations' new partner beginning with this tournament that will kick off on January 5. The impressive run had contributed to India returning to top 100 in Federation Internationale de Football Association rankings after a long time. I think they beat Australia at home if I am not wrong. We are 14th or 15th in Asia, it's very important to stay there and go into the top 10.

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