All Indian Football Federation (AIFF) president Praful Patel has called on the nation to support the Indian national team at the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) Asian Cup which will be held in the UAE in January 2018.
At the launch event of India's new kit designed by Six5Six, held in New Delhi, Patel expressed his satisfaction at the team's progress in recent years and felt India can play in the 2026 FIFA World Cup.
"The Asian dream needs to be converted into reality since we cannot keep dreaming all our lives. I am very happy that the coach and the team have performed exceedingly well over the last year or so, with the string of victories along with achieving our highest FIFA ranking in two decades," Patel began, at the launch of the team's new kit.
"But the Asian dream has to be first achieved before we move on to the next dream. I would say that 2026 will be our next mission since there will be eight Asian teams entering that World Cup. I think with the current form, if things go right and we really put our minds and hearts together, along with Sunil Chhetri and his men putting their feet together, we can definitely qualify for the 2026 World Cup.
"We should not have any minimum expectations. We should always have the maximum expectation. That is what we want to expect from the team. I am sure that they are mentally and physically well prepared. I wish them all the luck and they have the complete support of the AIFF.
Patel is hoping that the team will get good support from the country and also from the UAE's Indian community.
"I think we should go with the flow and as a nation, fully support the team. That is what is most important, that the entire nation is rooting for the team. Since the tournament is in the UAE, I hope we can get some excellent home support there since we have a strong Indian community.
"That can help them in their endeavours there and help the team do as well as they can. Why not? We should always go there to win the tournament. Why should we only look at the group stages? We know the group stage is challenging but we surely can progress to the knockouts," he concluded.
India will face Bahrain, Thailand and hosts UAE in Group A of their campaign that starts from January 6, 2018.