New Delhi [India], February 24 (ANI): India have been drawn alongside Hong Kong, Afghanistan, and Cambodia in Group D of the AFC Asian Cup China 2023 final round qualifiers at the official draw ceremony which was conducted at the Asian Football Confederation Headquarters on Thursday.
The leg which will kick-off on June 8 will be played at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in June with India taking on Cambodia on June 8. India's next two matches are against Afghanistan on June 11, and Hong Kong on June 14.
The participating 24 teams have been divided into 6 groups with the six group winners and the best five 2nd best-placed teams earning a ticket to the AFC Asian Cup China 2023.
The Blue Tigers had previously made it to the third and final round of the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers after finishing third in Group E in the second round of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 Joint Qualifiers.
"Draws can always be good or bad. But we need to do our job," Head Coach Igor Stimac stated immediately after the draw as per an AIFF release.
"We plan to begin our preparatory camp in Kolkata from the first week of May. But players from Mumbai City FC won't be available before May 29 owing to their club commitments in the AFC Champions League.
Furthermore, most likely ATK Mohun Bagan is also likely to be involved in the AFC Cup, and their players will also be unavailable till May 25," Stimac informed. "And there are almost 12 or more players from both the clubs who are part of the National Team."
"In such a situation, we need to check on other players, prepare them and wait for the others to join. The situation is very similar to March prior to the Friendlies," he added.
The Blue Tigers are playing Bahrain and Belarus on March 23, and March 26 respectively in two International Friendlies.
Commenting about the teams in the group, the Head Coach urged everyone to "take it seriously to get the job done."
"Afghanistan have always been a difficult opponent. They come with players who have experience playing in international leagues, and Hong Kong will also be strengthened when their three players from Brazil, maybe one each from the UK, and New Zealand join them, along with a host of others who play abroad. But we need to justify our position as a pot 1 team," the Head Coach averred.
"We are playing at home, and hopefully with the fans cheering us from the stands, the players will be extra motivated," he added.
Meanwhile, earlier in his message, the AFC President Dato Windsor John averred: "The AFC Asian Cup is AFC's crown jewel, and as outlined in the AFC's vision it provides the ultimate stage for Asia's football stars to shine. The qualifiers will be held in centralised venues to ensure the health and safety of our participating teams, and all our stakeholders."
June 8: India vs Cambodia
June 11: Afghanistan vs India
June 14: India vs Hong Kong (ANI)