2019 to 2023: How the AFC Asian Cup Draw panned out then & now
The Blue Tigers have a tough group in the upcoming continental tournament.
AFC Asian Cup 2023 will take place in Qatar from 12 January 2024 to 10 February 2024. Originally, China was to host the event from 16 June to 16 July 2023. However, owing to the Covid-19 pandemic and China’s zero-COVID policy, the country had to give up the hosting rights.
Qatar emerged as the host of the AFC Asian Cup which was postponed to a later date. The draw for the event took place on 11th May 2023. There are 24 national teams at the tournament divided into six groups of four teams each. Indian men’s national team has a herculean task ahead of them. They are drawn in Group B alongside Australia, Uzbekistan and Syria. This can also be termed as the Group of Death in some sense.
The Blue Tigers are the lowest-ranked FIFA team in the group and it will take a miracle to finish in either of the top two places in the group or even to qualify for the knockouts as the best third-placed team. India was not able to navigate past the group stages in the previous edition of the AFC Asian Cup, having finished bottom of the Group A points table.
Igor Stimac will hope his team does not replicate that performance of 2019 in Qatar next year. Apart from India’s grouping, there are other interesting match-ups as well and comparing the draw for the 2023 edition with the 2019 edition makes for an interesting observation.
The 2019 AFC Asian Cup
Hosts United Arab Emirates, Thailand, Bahrain and India made up Group A. With five points, UAE won the group and the Indian national team finished at the bottom, losing two and winning one of their three matches.
Jordan, Australia, Palestine and Syria made up Group B. Despite being favourites, the Aussies finished second to Jordan in the points table with two wins and a defeat.
South Korea, China, Kyrgyzstan and the Philippines were the teams in Group C. The group winners were South Korea with three wins and barring the Philippines, China and Kyrgyzstan both made it into the knockout stages.
Iran, Iraq, Vietnam and Yemen made up Group D. Both Iran and Iraq finished first and second in the standings respectively and made it to the knockout stages with two wins and a draw. Vietnam also qualified for the knockouts as one of the best-placed third teams.
Group E consisted of eventual champions Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and North Korea. The Qataris were unstoppable as they won all three group fixtures while Saudi Arabia finished second in the group by winning two of their three matches and collecting six points.
Lastly, Group F saw Japan, Uzbekistan, and Oman qualify for the knockouts while Turkmenistan lost all three of its matches to bow out from the group stages.
The 2023 AFC Asian Cup
In Group A, defending champions and hosts Qatar will be joined by the likes of China, Tajikistan and Lebanon. They are favourites to qualify for the next stage.
Group B consists of Australia, a team favourite to win it. They are joined by Uzbekistan, Syria and India.
Iran, United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong and Palestine make up Group C. It is an interesting group where Iran is the favourite to qualify as the top-placed team.
Japan, Indonesia, Iraq and Vietnam constitute Group D at the 2023 Asian Cup. On paper, the Japanese team is the favourite to win the group outrightly.
South Korea are favourites to win this group but they will face a stern challenge from Malaysia, Jordan and Bahrain.
Saudi Arabia, a team that beat World Champions Argentina at the FIFA World Cup 2022, will be the favourites to win Group F. Thailand, Kyrgyzstan and Oman will be fighting for second place and a strong third-place finish to make it into the knockouts.
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