Hope is a good thing.
The nervous wait to find out India's group stage opponents in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup came to an end on Friday evening. India were drawn into Group A alongside hosts United Arab Emirates (UAE), Thailand and Bahrain. Given the numerous possibilities, it is safe to say that the draw isn't too bad.
India's chances of making it out of Group A is slim but it could have been worse. Being in Pot 3, India could have easily been drawn alongside stronger Pot 1 candidates like Iran, who are taking part in the 2018 World Cup in Russia, defending AFC Asian Cup champions Australia, a talented DPR Korea and China. This year's draw has provided the Indian national team with their best chance in decades to make it out of the group stage.
Purely based on FIFA rankings, the UAE are the only side better than India in Group A but as we all know, rankings don't tell us the whole story. Thailand, despite being the worst-ranked team in the group (122), earned a spot in Pot 2 at the draw courtesy of their performances in the first two qualifying rounds. India, who qualified in the third round, had to settle for Pot 3.
India and Bahrain were in the same group the last time India qualified in 2011. Back then, the result was a 5-2 defeat but India will want to take revenge for the painful loss under Bob Houghton. India came out of that tournament with zero points from the group stage.
Stephen Constantine's side might fancy their chances against Thailand but one has to remember that the South-East Asian side lost 2-1 in the World Cup qualifier where the Socceroos had to rely on an 86th-minute winner. Although India's record against Thailand has been poor (five wins in 23 appearances), the South-East Asian country's Asian Cup record isn't great either. Apart from a third-place finish in 1972, Thailand haven't made it past the first round in the Asian competition.
UAE are one of the best teams in Asia and Omar Abdurahman and co. will be the toughest nut to crack for India in Group A. Even the final group game against Bahrain will not be easy for the Blue Tigers.
A ticket out of Group A will prove to be an incredibly difficult task for the Indian national team but this draw is India's best hope to earn results in Asia and maybe even pull off a surprise fairytale.
Remember, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.