AFC U-23 Championship Qualifiers: What can India expect from their group?

AFC U-23 Championship Qualifiers: What can India expect from their group?

The AFC U-23 Championship 2022 Uzbekistan qualifiers draw took place at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) headquarters in Kuala Lumpur on Friday. A total of 42 teams were placed in 11 groups, and the teams shall compete for 15 spots available for the finals. The qualifiers shall take place between October 23-31 this year. The draw consisted of teams divided into two regions- west region consisting of South and Central region teams as well and 19 teams in east region consisting of teams from ASEAN as well. The main event shall take place from June 1-19, 2022.

All the teams who top their respective groups and best four second-placed teams will qualify for the finals.

India have been drawn in Group E alongside United Arab Emirates, Oman and Kyrgyzstan. UAE shall host the group E matches.

Group A consists of hosts Qatar, Syria, Yemen and Sri Lanka. Group B consists of Islamic Republic of Iran, hosts Tajikistan, Lebanon and Nepal. Group C consists of Iraq, hosts Bahrain, Afghanistan and Maldives. Group D consists of Uzbekistan, hosts Kuwait and Bangladesh. Group F consists of hosts Jordan, Palestine and Turkmenistan. Group G consists of Australia, China, hosts Indonesia and Brunei Darussalam. Group H consists of South Korea, hosts Singapore, Philippines and Timor-Leste. Group I consists of Vietnam, Myanmar, Hong Kong and hosts Chinese Taipei. Group J consists of Thailand, Malaysia, hosts Mongolia and Laos. Group K consists of Japan, North Korea and Cambodia, hosts of which will be announced soon.

The Blue Tigers have never made it to the finals of the competition and will look to finally break the jinx this time. But how smooth will the path India will tread on? Let us take a look at how India’s opponents have fared so far:

• United Arab Emirates:

The team has managed to make it to the finals of 2013, 2016 and 2020 editions of the tournament finals. The only time they didn’t was in 2018. The team finished 8th in 2013, 5th in 2016 and 6th in 2020, ending up only as far as quarter finals of the competition in all appearances. They played a couple of friendlies this year against Bahrain in May, winning 3-2 and 2-1 despite being the visitors.

• Oman:

The team qualified for the finals twice, as hosts in 2013, and on merit in 2018. Both times they finished in the group stage, finishing 3rd and 4th respectively.

• Kyrgyzstan:

The team has failed to qualify for the finals in any of the editions. They lost 1-0 to Bangladesh and drew 0-0 against Nepal in a tri-nation tournament.

It appears that despite the group seemingly competitive for the Blue Tigers, the recent form of the teams suggest that India can do well and finish top of the group if they play to the best of their potential. With Igor Stimac already giving exposure to many younger players in the senior ranks, we can expect the young players to play more confidently against these sides.

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