The qualifiers for the AFC U-23 Championship is set to commence on March 22 as India travel to Uzbekistan to book their slot in the 16-team tournament that will be held in January 2020.
This will be the fourth edition of the biennial tournament, which will also serve as the qualifiers for the Summer Olympics 2020 in Tokyo.
43 teams have been sorted into 11 groups for the qualifier round which will take place between the 22nd and 26th of March in Uzbekistan. With Pakistan withdrawing from the competition due to their tension with India, Group F will feature just three teams.
All the group winners and four of the best runners-up will advance to the final round of the tournament. Should Thailand – who have already qualified as hosts – finish in any of these positions, the fifth best runner-up will also qualify.
The main tournament will have a league and knockout format with eight of the sixteen teams making it to the quarterfinals and so on.
INDIA IN THE AFC U-23 CHAMPIONSHIP
Should India qualify for the final round of the tournament, it will be there first appearance in the championship. In order to achieve that, they first need to get past Tajikistan and Uzbekistan in the qualifiers. The rules of qualification will be the same as the ones for the other groups that have four teams. India will have to top the group or finish as one of the best four runners-up to qualify.
Here is a list of India’s fixtures for the same. Both the games will be played at 5:00 PM (IST) at the Pakhtakor Stadium in Tashkent.
|22nd March 2019||India v Uzbekistan|
|24th March 2019||Tajikistan v India|
Just like India, Tajikistan are yet to feature in the main tournament. On the other hand, Uzbekistan have won it in 2018.
PAST WINNERS AND DEFENDING CHAMPIONS
Iraq became the first team to win the tournament back in 2013. They also collected the bronze medal in the next edition (2016).
Japan then took the mantle in 2016 but failed to qualify for the main event in 2018.
Uzbekistan are the defending champions, having win the 2018 edition of the tournament. Clearly, India have a tough task ahead of them as they attempt to qualify for the main event for the first time ever.