New Delhi: Igor Stimac, head coach of the Indian football team and the players are excited to play their third round of the 2023 Asian Cup qualifiers at home in June this year, and say they will aim to secure a place in the main draw .
The qualifying matches for the third round of the 2023 Asian Cup will be played in six central locations and the group matches involving India will be held this year at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata, spread over three match days on June 8, 11 and 14.
The remaining five group matches will be played in Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Mongolia and Uzbekistan. The six group winners and the best five second-placed teams earn a ticket to the Asian Cup, which starts next year on June 16 in China.
Stimac hopes that by then spectators will be able to watch the matches.
We are very happy … we need to prepare in the best possible way and pray that the fans will have a chance to join us in the stadium and cheer us to victory, Stimac said in a message from the All Indian Football federation.
AIFF Player of the Year and centre-back Sandesh Jhingan said it was a “huge bonus” for the team to host the final round of qualifiers in India.
“Playing such important matches in your own backyard is always an added advantage and that makes me happy. I hope the fans can crowd the stadium and support us.
“It will be an extra motivation for the players. We will do everything we can to get the job done to bring happiness and pride to the fans. We are looking forward to it, said Jhingan.
In preparation for the qualifiers in June, the Blue Tigers will play two international friendlies against Bahrain and Belarus on March 23 and 26, respectively.
Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu echoed the same sentiments and said it is an advantage to play at home.
I am very happy that we can play the qualifiers in Kolkata. It will give us huge inspiration to play on our own soil. I can’t wait to join the team and get ready. I pray that everyone stays injury free.”
Gurpreet’s goalkeeping colleague Amrinder Singh said: “It will be quite an achievement for India to qualify for the Asian Cup in successive editions like never before.
“In that sense, winning the bid and organizing it in Kolkata is so encouraging. Playing at home is always an added advantage. We have to make the most of it, he added.
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