India have been drawn in the Group A of the upcoming AFC Asian Cup 2019 alongside hosts UAE, Bahrain and Thailand at the draw ceremony held in Abu Dubai on Friday.
After the draw, national team head coach Stephen Constantine stated that India can “qualify to the knock-out stage” of the continental championship.
“I think it's a group from where we can qualify to the knock-out stage. I won't say it's an easy group but we have the ability to win against some of these teams and on our day, we can beat most of them,” said Constantine who was in the audience during the draw alongside Assistant Coach Shanmugham Venkatesh.
But the British tactician was quick to recognize the challenges that lie ahead and stressed on preparing well before the finals.
"All these teams will give us different kinds of problems and we have to be prepared before facing them in the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019,” he added.
Indian skipper Sunil Chhetri graced the occasion as one of the four draw assistants along with Iranian legend Ali Daei, iconic Chinese player Sun Ji-Hai and Philippines’ star Philip James Younghusband. India was the first team from Pot 3 to be picked by Chhetri and hence slotted in Group A.
Speaking at the ceremony, Chhetri said: “The AFC Asian Cup is an enormous opportunity for us and we are looking forward to it. Back home in India, everyone is excited and we have the blessings of all the people. We will do our best.”
The Bengaluru FC skipper is keen to treat this tournament as a platform where India would get to test their credentials against the best and thereby gauge their progress.
“The AFC Asian Cup gives us the opportunity to rub shoulders with the best of Asia and play against players, many of whom play in Premier League, across Europe and other parts of the world. It will be an eye-opener and even if it is a learning experience, we aim to be competitive and give our best on the pitch.
“I was part of the national team in 2011 in Doha where we last played in the continental championship. Qualifying to the Asian Cup for the second time in 8 years is great for Indian Football,” signed off the 33-year-old striker.