AFC Asian Cup 2023 Qualifiers: Qualifications for round 3 explained
The Blue Tigers were supposed to qualify on the basis of finishing third in the group, but the qualifications scenario changed.
The Indian football team played its final FIFA 2022 World Cup Qatar and AFC Asian Cup 2023 China joint qualifiers round two match yesterday as the Blue Tigers played out a 1-1 draw against Afghanistan at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in Doha, Qatar. The Blue Tigers lost the lead earned through a howler from Afghan custodian Ovays Azizi just minutes after Sunil Chhetri was substituted in the 69th minute, to a 82nd-minute strike by Hossein Zamani, leaving the scoreline all square at the full-time whistle.
Post the covid break that led to not just postponement of the qualifiers but also led to a centralized venue for the remaining fixtures, all the teams assembled in Qatar to play the matches at Doha. After going down 1-0 to Qatar and winning 2-0 over Bangladesh, India only needed a point from the final fixture to finish third in the group. They earned the point and were supposed to end up in the third round of the Asian Qualifiers beating Bangladesh and Afghanistan in the process.
But to everyone’s surprise, the Asian Football Confederation on Wednesday morning announced that Afghanistan and Bangladesh have also gone through to the next round of the Asian Cup qualifiers.
What exactly happened?
The reason behind this is AFC’s change in the qualifications process. Now 22 teams from the second round of the joint qualifiers, who finished behind the top 12 that made it to the next round for the World Cup Qualifiers, will make it to the next round of the Asian Qualifiers. The remaining four teams will play the play-offs to occupy the final two remaining spots, making a total of 24 spots for the third round of the Asian Cup qualifiers.
The four teams to play the play-offs: Indonesia, Guam, Chinese Taipei, and Cambodia will play the matches on 7th September and 12th October, the draw for which shall take place on June 24.
The third round of the qualifiers, which will be played among 24 teams, will begin most likely from February next year and will continue till September. The tentative schedule of the matches are as follows:
MD1: 1 February
MD2: 24 March
MD3: 29 March
MD4: 14 June
MD5: 22 September
MD6: 27 September
The draw dates are yet to be announced for the same. But going by the current FIFA rankings, India will end up in Pot 1 of the draw, which will help the Blue Tigers avoid tough teams like Uzbekistan.
Teams will be divided into 6 groups and the 6 group winners along with 5 best runners-up will make it to the Asian Cup finals, joining the 13 teams who have already made it to the finals courtesy finishing up in the top 13 of the Joint FIFA World Cup and Asian Cup qualifiers.