India set to play Saudi Arabia, China as preparation for AFC Asian Cup

first_imgIndia have qualified for the AFC Asian Cup for the first time since 2011 and now, they want to do everything they can to get the best preparation for the tournament.The 2019 AFC Asian Cup will held in UAE from January 5 to February 1 and across eight centres in the four UAE cities.India are placed in Group A, alongside the hosts, Thailand and Bahrain.India captain Sunil Chhetri has been making a constant call to play tougher teams ahead of the Asian Cup and it seems his calls have been heard.India recently won the Intercontinental Cup where they placed against second string teams from Kenya, Chinese Taipei and New Zealand.Even as Chhetri equalled Lionel Messi’s international record of 64 goals and became the second highest goalscorer among active footballers in the world, a lot more work is required for India’s Asian Cup campaign.Also read – Sunil Chhetri’s achievement must not be overshadowed by Messi’s greatnessThat is exactly what AIFF are working towards. India are expecting to play friendlies against higher-ranked Saudi Arabia and China and talks with both the federations are in advanced stages, AIFF general secretary Kushal Das told PTI.”We are in talks with them and it’s almost 90 percent. We are trying to arrange one home and one away game around October-November,” Das said.Saudi Arabia, who are participating in the ongoing FIFA world Cup in Russia, are currently ranked 67, while China are placed 75th.Also read – Aim to break into top 10 in Asia first, World Cup later: Sunil ChhetriadvertisementIndia are ranked 97th in the FIFA charts.The top 24 teams from all over Asia are drawn into six groups of four teams each.The top AIFF official said they are looking to arrange matches for the national team keeping in line with FIFA’s changed ranking system.India are currently ranked 14 in Asian region.Also Read – Sunil Chhetri ignores #ConstantineOut: ‘Internet trolls not important’In the Asian Cup, teams in a group will play each other once and the top two from each group will qualify for the Round of 16 along with the best four third-placed teams.The continental championship will be held across eight stadia in four cities in the UAE Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah and Al Ain.This is India’s fourth qualification in the Asian Cup.Also read – Thought of life without football scares me: Sunil Chhetri to India TodayIndia had finished runners-up to Israel in 1964. In the 1984 edition, India crashed out at the group stage with one draw and three losses.For India coach Stephen Constantine and Chhetri, the Intercontinental Cup showing is only a step in preparation for the Asian Cup.The 33-year-old Chhetri’s double strike capped a brilliant tournament which saw him score eight out of India’s 11 goals and put him on par with Argentine superstar Lionel Messi with 64 goals.(With PTI inputs)last_img read more