India have been drawn into Group A along with hosts United Arab Emirates, Thailand and Bahrain in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup which is set to kick off in January. The draw was held in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Friday.
Renedy Singh, former Indian midfielder, was glad that India were drawn into a relatively easier group than in 2011, where the team had to face Asian giants Australia and South Korea.
"This is the best draw that we could have got. Back in 2011 we had Australia, South Korea and Bahrain. The first two are the footballing powerhouses of Asia. So we were unlucky to draw them. I agree all teams are good but it is way better to draw Thailand and Bahrain rather than Australia and Korea.
"UAE has developed a lot in recent times. They are a tough opponent. But we used to beat them a long time back. We had beaten them in a World Cup qualifier (WCQ) in Bengaluru. Then we lost by a narrow margin and in that match, Bhaichung was red carded in the first-half. Of course, they have developed but it is still better to face UAE than Korea or Australia.
"Against Bahrain, we lost 5-2 in 2011 but we played some good football in that match. We have also improved a lot since then. Against, Thailand we have drawn 1-1 in Delhi. But they are beatable," said an optimistic Renedy.
The former Mohun Bagan midfielder stressed on the preparations leading to the finals in January and opined that playing against quality teams is a must to improve.
"With the advent of Indian Super League (ISL), players are more confident as they have been training regularly under quality coaches. Yes, Bob (Houghton) was the best. For me still Bob is the best. But the preparations from now on are the key. Instead of playing against Bangladesh and Nepal, we should play against more quality sides. Winning against them does not matter much. Even if we lose close matches against better sides and manage to score goals that will give us more confidence," stated Renedy.
When asked about India's chances for progression to the knock out stage, the 38-year old Manipuri seemed a bit cautious.
"Thailand is the one against whom who should do well. In the rest two matches, we should fight well and let's see what happens," signed off Renedy.