The 18th edition of the AFC Asian Cup is set to get underway on January 12 with hosts Qatar taking on Lebanon in the opening game.
The contest will take place at the Lusail Stadium where Argentina triumphed over France in the FIFA World Cup final in December 2022. The final of the AFC Asian Cup will also be held at the same venue on February 10.
The quadrennial tournament was previously slated to be held in China last year. However, the time and venue were changed later due to the country’s strict Covid-19 regulations.
Including India, a total of 24 teams are participating in the 2024 AFC Asian Cup. They have been divided into six groups featuring four teams each. The Indian football team, led by Sunil Chhetri, has been placed in Group B alongside some powerhouses like Australia, Uzbekistan and Syria.
Apart from the top two teams of each group, the four best third-placed sides will punch their tickets to the knockout stage.
India have announced a strong 26-member squad for the mega tournament. Head coach Igor Stimac seems desperate to make the most out of the competition as he had begun the preparation for the Asian Cup two months back.
Eyes will be on captain Sunil Chhetri, who is going into his third Asian Cup campaign. He was part of the Indian side that suffered a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Australia in the group stage of the 2011 edition.
Chhetri and Co. will try to turn the tables when they face off against the Socceroos in their campaign opener on January 13.
India have previously competed in four of the 17 editions of the AFC Asian Cup, which is the second-oldest football tournament in history after the Copa America.
India made their first appearance in the continental showpiece in 1964. It was the best campaign for the Blue Tigers to date. They endured just one defeat against Israel and wrapped up the competition as the runners-up.
India had to wait for as long as 20 years to return to the tournament. They started the 1984 campaign with a draw goalless draw against Iran but failed to pick up a single point from the remaining matches. India lost all of their group-league fixtures in 2011. They had almost reached the knockout stage of the 2019 edition but a narrow loss to Bahrain did not let that happen.
As a fresh season of the AFC Asian Cup is set to kick off, let’s take a look at India’s schedule for the Qatar campaign:
India’s AFC Asian Cup Schedule
Australia vs India: January 13, 5 PM IST (Ahmad bin Ali Stadium)
India vs Uzbekistan: January 18, 8 PM IST (Ahmad bin Ali Stadium)
India vs Syria : January 23, 5 PM IST (Jassim bin Hamad Stadium)
India’s Full Squad For AFC Asia Cup 2024
Goalkeepers: Amrinder Singh, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Vishal Kaith
Defenders: Akash Mishra, Lalchungnunga, Mehtab Singh, Nikhil Poojary, Pritam Kotal, Rahul Bheke, Sandesh Jhingan, Subhasish Bose
Midfielders: Anirudh Thapa, Brandon Fernandes, Deepak Tangri, Lalengmawia Ralte, Liston Colaco, Naorem Mahesh Singh, Sahal Abdul Samad, Suresh Singh Wangjam, Udanta Singh
Forwards: Ishan Pandita, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Manvir Singh, Rahul Kannoly Praveen, Sunil Chhetri, Vikram Partap Singh