AFC Asian Cup

Looking back at India’s performances at AFC Asian Cup over the years

Keshava Verma

May 11 2023

The Blue Tigers have previously appeared in the competition four times.

The AFC Asian Cup is often deemed as Asia’s most prestigious football competition, and rightfully so. Contested by a total of 24 teams, the tournament hosts the biggest footballing powerhouses of the continent, who all fight for the accolade of being the champions of the continent. 

In its long history of 60-70 years, the AFC Asian Cup has seen a number of countries battle for the Asian crown, and as unfortunate as it may seem, India hasn’t been a major part of that history. 

The Blue Tigers have only qualified for 5 of the 18 editions of the Asian Cups (including the 2023 Asian Cup), and haven’t enjoyed any resounding success in the competition whatsoever. But with the 2023 Asian Cup on the horizon, India have another opportunity to make a statement across the continent and will hope to put up a tough fight against their opponents.

With the official draw for the 2023 Asian Cup taking place soon, we take a look at India’s performances in the Asian Cup over the years.


The Indian National team wrote the first chapter in its history of the Asian Cup, all the way back in 1964, in the third edition of the continental competition. India finished runners-up in the 1964 Asian Cup, which till date remains their best finish in the competition.

The 1964 Asian Cup featured only 4 nations – Israel, Hong Kong, India, and South Korea, with a number of countries pulling out due to political reasons. 

The competition was played in a round-robin format, and as a result of the wins against Hong Kong and South Korea, the Blue Tigers finished second in the table.


20 years after their maiden qualification, India finally made it to the finals of the AFC Asian Cup once again in 1984. The Men in Blue strived for a decent display in the competition after having to wait for two decades, and despite their best efforts, the tournament was an absolute disaster for the nation. 

India were drawn into a pretty tough group consisting of China PR, UAE, Iran, and Singapore

The Blue Tigers lost their first game 2-0 against Singapore and suffered the same fate in their second game against UAE as well. They rescued a point by holding the Iranians to a draw, before being thrashed by China to bring a disappointing conclusion to their campaign.


As poor as India’s 1984 Asian Cup campaign was, the worst was yet to come for the Blue Tigers in 2011. 

Courtesy of the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup victory, India secured direct qualification into the 2011 AFC Asian Cup, and finally got the chance to play in the competition after a long wait of 24 years.

With the wizard Subrata Paul in between the sticks, and the clinical Sunil Chettri up front, India were optimistic of putting up a decent fight in a tough group consisting of opponents like Australia, South Korea, and Bahrain. 

Their hopes and expectations were however short-lived, as India were crushed in their first game against Australia, and suffered a similar fate in the following two fixtures to end their campaign without a single point.


India entered the 2019 AFC Asian Cup with a renewed confidence. A younger and much more talented squad was a part of the nation’s roster that had been endorsed adequately by the increasing emphasis on football in the country. 

India won their first game of the 2019 Asian Cup, in a historic 4-1 win against Thailand, to end a 55-year winless drought. Sunil Chettri dropped in a sensational shift that night, as he was on the scoresheet twice and was also rewarded with the Man of the match award. 

India then lost out to hosts UAE in the second game of their campaign but looked to book a spot in the knockouts against Bahrain in their final game. 

The Blue Tigers did exceptionally well, and held the Bahrainians for the entirety of the game, before conceding a late winner from the spot to shatter the hearts of all Indian football fans, and further extend the wait for a knockout qualification.


Years of heartbreak and despair have now led us to the 2023 Asian Cup, ahead of which there has been a sense of optimism like never before. The biggest reason for this is the incredible performance by the Blues in the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers, in which they won all their games. 

Also, the amount of talent and quality that the national team possesses at present is exceptional and truly makes you wonder whether India are finally ready to make it to the knockouts and potentially to AFC Asian Cup glory.

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