The Blue Tigers have been put in Group F along with Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Pakistan.
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) have announced the groups for the 2020 AFC U-23 Championship qualifiers. India have been put in Group F, along with Uzbekistan (the hosts of the group), Tajikistan and arch-rivals Pakistan. The tournament serves as the qualifiers for the 2020 AFC U-23 Championship to be played in Thailand. The qualifiers will be played between 22-26 March 2019.
— AFC (@theafcdotcom) November 7, 2018
The Blue Tigers will begin their campaign on 22nd March next year
44 teams from Asia have been divided into 11 groups of four each. The two zones are the West zone – comprising of groups A to F and the East zone – comprising of groups G to K. Of the 44 teams, 16 will qualify for the final tournament to be played in Thailand.
The 44 teams were divided into four West zone pots of six teams each and four East zone pots of five teams each. The pots were filled based on the seedings granted to the teams. The teams were seeded based on their performance in the 2018 AFC U-23 Championship and its qualifiers. India were seeded as the 28th best team and were put in Pot 3, as the second best team in the pot behind Lebanon (27).
The Group F fixtures would be played in Uzbekistan and will see Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, India and Pakistan lock horns with each other. The ‘Group of Death’ though is Group K consisting of ASEAN heavyweights Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and Brunei DS.
Uzbekistan are ranked 94th in the FIFA World rankings and are 13th in the continent, whereas Tajikistan rank 118th and 22nd and Pakistan a distant 199th and 45th in FIFA’s global and continental rankings respectively. India currently sit 97th in the world and 15th in Asia.
As it looks from the rankings of the teams in the group, one can see India having an easy ride through the qualifiers, but it may not turn out to be the case. India have never won against Uzbekistan and have lost their previous two games against Tajikistan. However, one can expect them to win against struggling neighbours Pakistan.
The games are to be played on the 22nd, 24th and 26th of March. India will play Tajikistan on 22nd, Uzbekistan on 24th and Pakistan on the final matchday on 26th March next year.