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How can India qualify for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup?

11:37 AM MYT 03/03/2022
Sunil Chhetri India Maldives SAFF Championship 2021
The Blue Tigers are just a step away from qualifying for the AFC Asian Cup...

The AFC Asian Cup is the marquee quadrennial competition of the continent which determines the best footballing nation of Asia. Founded in 1956, it is the second oldest continental football championship in the world after Copa América.

Qatar are the reigning Asian champion while Japan are the most successful team with four titles. India's best performance in the competition came in the 1964 edition when the Blue Tigers finished as runners-up.

Sunil Chhetri and co. last participated in the tournament in 2019 when they were knocked out of the group stages. They are yet to qualify for the 2023 Asian Cup but are on course to seal a berth for the final stages.

How is India's 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualification campaign going?

To qualify for the AFC Asian Cup final stage a team might have to go through three rounds. In the first round, a total of 12 teams take part, who are ranked 35-46 in the AFC entrant list. Six winners advance to the second round. However, India did not participate in the first round as they are ranked 18th in the entrant list.

The 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers also served as the second round of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualification. Teams who maanged to progress to the third round of the World Cup qualifiers automaticaly qualified for the 2023 Asian Cup main event. India did play a part in this round and were placed in Group E along with Qatar, Oman, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. They finished in third place with seven points from eight matches and progressed to the third round of qualifiers for the Asian Cup.

What India need to do to qualify for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup?

The third round of qualifiers is the final frontier to overcome before qualifying for the AFC Asian Cup. In this round, 24 teams will compete for 11 available slots. The 24 teams are divided into six groups and would now play single round-robin matches in six centralised venues. The group winners and the best five runners-up across all groups will qualify for the Asian Cup.

The matches will be held in June and India have been placed in Group D alongside Hong Kong, Afghanistan, and Cambodia. All the Group D matches will be held at the Salt Lake Stadium, in Kolkata. If India emerge as group winners then they will directly qualify for the main event. On finishing second, they can still qualify but have to be amongst the five-best second-placed teams out of six. If they finish third or fourth, then they will be knocked out.