India clubbed with China, Bangladesh, Myanmar in men’s draw; Thailand, Chinese Taipei in women’s football | Football News
Similarly, the Indian women’s football team has been grouped with Thailand and Chinese Taipei in Group B for the Asian Games.
The participation of both the Indian men’s and women’s football teams in the quadrennial extravaganza was confirmed after the Sports Ministry decided to relax the existing selection criteria.
In the men’s competition, there are six groups, and the top two teams from each group, along with the four best third-placed teams, will advance to the round of 16.
For the women’s competition, the top team from each group and the three best second-placed teams will progress to the quarterfinals.
India enjoyed success in men’s football in the Asian Games, winning gold in the inaugural edition in 1951 and repeating the feat in 1962.
The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) had earlier refused to clear the Indian football teams for the Games on the ground that they were not ranked in the top-8 in Asia.
The All India Football Federation (AIFF) then made an appeal to the Sports Ministry to allow the two sides to take part in the prestigious event with national senior team head coach Igor Stimac also seeking Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention.
Since 2002, football in the Asian Games has been an U-23 affair with three players above that age being permitted in a team.
However, in this edition of the Games the 24-year-old players are also eligible to play because of the one-year postponement of the Games owing to rising COVID cases in China last year.
Veteran striker Sunil Chhetri, first-choice goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and star defender Sandesh Jhingan are set to be part of the Indian men’s team as the three over-age players.
With lower-ranked Myanmar and Bangladesh in its group, the Indian men’s team will be expected to progress to the next round of the competition, while the women will also fancy their chances.
For the 2022 Asian Games, the date of birth cut off was January 1, 1999, and this cut off will remain, the organisers had decided in February. Also three overage players will be allowed to play in the football competition of the mega event.
The Indian men’s team currently occupies the 18th spot among countries under the Asian Football Confederation, while the women’s side is ranked 11th.
The Indian men’s team has entered the sub-100 club in the FIFA rankings once again, having won the SAFF Championship where it played against Lebanon and Kuwait. This year it also won the Intercontinental Cup and the tri-nation football tournament featuring Kyrgyz Republic and Myanmar.
The women’s team has also done well, beating Kyrgyzstan twice in the Olympic Qualifiers Round 1.
The Asian Games will be held from September to October 8 but the football event starts on September 19, with the final scheduled for the penultimate day of the Games.
(With PTI Inputs)