The qualifiers for the 2022 edition of the tournament will begin on October 22, 2021.

The 2022 edition of the AFC U-23 Asian Cup is drawing closer, with Uzbekistan hosting the tournament. As hosts, the Uzbeks have already qualified for the tournament, however, every other participating country has to earn their qualification. They have to play the AFC U-23 Asian Cup qualifiers which will begin on October 22.

India are among the many teams participating in the qualifiers. The Blue Colts will have to undergo difficult competition to do so. Igor Stimac has chosen his most trusted players for the job and knows his side are the underdogs. Before the qualifiers kick-off, here is everything you need to know about it.

About the tournament

The AFC U-23 Asian Cup 2022 will be the fifth edition of the tournament, which was first played in 2013. All four recent editions have had different champions, with South Korea’s U-23 team winning the trophy in the previous edition in 2020.

Uzbekistan, who won the 2018 edition, have been given the rights to host the 2022 tournament. South Korea have been the most prolific team in the competition’s history. They have reached the finals twice in four editions and have never failed to advance to the semi-finals in the history of the tournament.

Saudi Arabia’s U-23 team has also reached the final twice, but were unable to win it both times. The Indian U-23 team have never participated in the tournament. They have played the qualifiers on all four occasions, but are yet to compete in an AFC U-23 Asian Cup.

About the qualifiers

The 2022 AFC U-23 Asian Cup qualifiers will begin on October 22. The qualifiers will take place till October 2 and the group winners will gain automatic qualification for the 2022 AFC U-23 Asian Cup. 11 groups of four teams were initially created, with 11 separate nations hosting the games. However, due to the withdrawal of a number of teams – Group F, Group G, Group I and Group K remain incomplete. As a result, the winners of each 11 groups will attain automatic qualification for next year’s competition.

Alongside them, four more teams will progress. These teams will be the runners up with the best records in the group stages. However, with certain groups being incomplete, the AFC has come up with a new way of determining the second best teams.

Apart from Group D (which has hosts Uzbekistan who have already qualified), the results of any team against the bottom-placed teams in the other groups will not be considered. This means the results of the respective runners-up against the first-placed and third-placed teams in the groups will be taken into consideration. In the Group G, where only Australia and Indonesia have participated, the team to have gotten better results from their two games will only progress.

Teams Participating in the AFC U-23 Asian Cup qualifiers (H stands for ‘hosts’):

Group A: Qatar (H), Syria, Yemen, Sri Lanka

Group B: Tajikistan (H), Iran, Lebanon, Nepal

Group C: Bahrain (H), Iraq, Afghanistan, Maldives

Group D: Uzbekistan (Q, H), Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bangladesh

Group E: United Arab Emirates (H), India, Oman, Kyrgyzstan

Group F: Jordan (H), Palestine, Turkmenistan

Group G: Australia, Indonesia

Group H: Singapore (H), South Korea, Philippines, Timor-Leste

Group I: Vietnam, Myanmar, Chinese Taipei

Group J: Mongolia (H), Thailand, Malaysia, Laos

Group K: Japan (H), Hong Kong, Cambodia

Group E analysis

India have been placed in Group E of the AFC U-23 Asian Cup qualifiers. The Blue Tigers have been placed in a relatively competitive group, against Oman U-23, UAE U-23 and Kyrgyzstan U-23 team. All three of their opponents are ranked higher in the FIFA World Rankings right now.

UAE U-23

The U-23 team of the United Arab Emirates have plenty of experience in this competition. They progressed to the quarter-finals of the AFC U-23 Asian Cup in 2020 and qualified for three out of the four editions so far. They head into the qualifiers in topsy-turvy form, having won two out of their last five competitive games.

But, UAE’s U-23 team competed in the 2021 U-23 WAFF (Western Asian Football Federation) Cup in October, giving them some much-needed match fitness.

Oman U-23

Oman last qualified for the AFC U-23 Asian Cup back in the 2018 edition. They have attained qualification on two occasions so far and aim to make it the third this time around. Interestingly, Oman’s U-23 team have not played in many competitive games since 2018!

That being said, the West Asian side has shown impressive growth in football over the years. Their senior team defeated the Indian national team in both FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifiers in 2019.  They boast some impressive young talents, who will hope to prove their caliber in the qualifiers.

Kyrgyzstan U-23

Kyrgyzstan’s U-23 team has also only played three games in 2021 so far. They defeated the Bangladesh U-23 team in September 2021 in a friendly game. All their players currently play in Kyrgyzstan and some have also featured for the senior national team.

India U-23

India’s U-23 team has not played in any competitive game this year so far. However, Igor Stimac’s squad is filled with players who recently featured in the SAFF Championship and international friendlies earlier in 2021.

They boast valuable experience which can help outwit the opposition youngsters. However, India have to be brave and play as a strong unit to withstand the force of their intimidating opponents and have a chance to qualify for the tournament’s 2022 edition.

Venue of Group E games

Fujairah Stadium, Fujairah – United Arab Emirates.

Fixture list

Oman vs India – 24 October – 10:00 PM IST

India vs UAE – 27 October – 10:00 PM IST

India vs Kyrgyzstan – 30 October – 10:00 PM IST

India squad

Goalkeepers: Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem (FC Goa), Prabhsukhan Singh Gill (Kerala Blasters FC), Mohammad Nawaz (Mumbai City FC).

Defenders: Narender Gahlot (Jamshedpur FC), Alex Saji (Gokulam Kerala FC), Hormipam Ruivah (Kerala Blasters FC), Asish Rai (Hyderabad FC), Sumit Rathi (ATK Mohun Bagan FC), Akash Mishra (Hyderabad FC).

Midfielders: Suresh Singh Wangjam (Bengaluru FC), Amarjit Singh Kiyam (SC East Bengal on loan from FC Goa), Lalengmawia Ralte (Mumbai City FC), Jeakson Singh (Kerala Blasters FC), Deepak Tangri (ATK Mohun Bagan FC), Rahul KP (Kerala Blasters FC), Komal Thatal (Jamshedpur FC), Nikhil Raj (Odisha FC on loan from Kickstart FC), Bryce Miranda (Churchill Brothers FC), Princeton Rebello (FC Goa).

Forwards: Vikram Partap Singh (Mumbai City FC), Rahim Ali (Chennaiyin FC), Rohit Danu (Hyderabad FC), Aniket Jadhav (Hyderabad FC).

Telecast

The AFC U-23 Asian Cup Qualifiers will be shown live on the official social media handles of the Indian football team, AIFF confirmed.

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