Asia's biggest football tournament AFC Asian Cup is starting in Qatar after two days. India's first match will be against 2015 champion Australia. For the first time, the Indian team has qualified for two consecutive seasons. The Indian team, popularly known as Blue Tigers, has been placed in Group B along with Australia, Uzbekistan and Syria. India is playing the Asian Cup for the 5th time. The team will face the challenge of the top-24 teams of Asia. Currently, the Indian football team is on international break (playing international matches).
The Indian team has been playing in this tournament for 68 years but has not been able to become champion till date. The best performance of the Indian team so far in this tournament came in 1964. Then the team was at second position. Israel became champion.
Just as the Euro Cup is the top international tournament in Europe and the Copa America in Latin America, the Asian Cup football is the biggest football tournament in the Asian continent.
Top 24 teams from across Asia participate in this tournament. The tournament is held every 4 years and has been played since 1956 (for 68 years). This is the 18th edition of the tournament.
Australia is the 2015 champion. The team received membership of the Asian Football Federation in 2006 and has participated in every edition since 2007. The team reached the Round-16 in the 2022 FIFA World Cup. In the last match, Australia also defeated Bangladesh 7-0.
So far 8 matches have been played between India and Australia, Australia won 5 and India won 2. One match was also a draw. The last time India defeated Australia 7-1 was in 1956, when India was the top team in Asia. The two teams last met in the 2011 Asian Cup, when India had to face a 0-4 defeat.
India is waiting for its first win against Uzbekistan. The team has been playing the Asian Cup continuously since 1996. In recent World Cup qualifiers, Uzbekistan defeated Turkmenistan (3-1), Kyrgyzstan (4-1) and Palestine (1-0). The team also recently played a 2-2 draw against Iran, one of the top teams in Asia.
The last encounter between India and Uzbekistan was in the 2001 Merdeka Tournament, when Team India lost 1-2. Out of the 6 matches played between the two so far, India has lost 4, while 2 matches were also drawn.
Indian team can win against Syria. India has defeated Syria in 3 out of 6 matches, the team lost in 2, while one match was also a draw. Syria beats North Korea 0-1 in World Cup qualifiers. The team could play draws against Kyrgyzstan (1-1) and Malaysia (2-2). Its only defeat was 0-5 against Japan.
Team bonding from SAFF Championship: Team bonding has increased since winning the SAFF Championship. India is playing attacking football.
All players fit: All players of the Indian team are fit. Sunil Chhetri, Sandesh Jhingan and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu are available to play.
The team has strength from ISL: Due to the ongoing ISL, the players of the team are playing regularly. With this, all the players have got playing time and all are match fit.
Youth also in the team along with experience: The team has experienced players like Chhetri, Gurpreet, Udanta and Jhingan as well as young players like Sahal Abdul Samad and Lalianzuala Changte. Youngsters are fast at dribbling, which helps in goalmaking.
Poor performance in the World Cup Qualifiers - In the World Cup Qualifiers, India won against Kuwait (1-0), but lost against Qatar (0-3). In the friendly match, the team was defeated by Malaysia 4-2.
The team did not get time to train - Due to ISL, the national team players did not get time to train with national team coach Igor Stimac. Due to the ongoing season, the managers of ISL teams did not release the players on time.
India weak in set piece - Igor Stimac had said during the team announcement that the team will have to work on set piece (penalty, corner and free-kick). The team is not able to convert important opportunities into goals.
Attacking change- The team's strikers get nervous inside the penalty box. The ball easily enters the penalty box from midfield, but the wingers are unable to finish properly. The team has missed many goals inside the penalty box for some time now.