New Delhi [India], June 5 (ANI): The Indian football team will be back in action as they prepare for consecutive tournaments with the Intercontinental Cup and the SAFF Championships on the horizon. Having recently won the Tri-Nation International Football Tournament, these tournaments will offer a chance for the Blue Tigers to prepare well for the AFC Asian Cup 2023, scheduled for January 2024.
Having come close to qualifying for the round of 16 during the 2019 edition of the AFC Asian Cup, India have been drawn alongside Australia, Uzbekistan and Syria in Group B in the 2023 edition. It's a difficult draw for the Blue Tigers, who are the lowest-ranked team in their group. However, in an exclusive interaction with ISL, former India defender Gouramangi Singh said playing in the Intercontinental Cup and the SAFF Championships will be beneficial for India head coach Igor Stimac, so he can get a better understanding of the team and his players before the continental event.
"It will surely help (the team if they play these tournaments). As a national team, you have only a certain number of matches that you get to play in the FIFA window. If you can host a tournament or participate in another country, that's what the AIFF is trying to do," Gouramangi Singh was quoted as saying by ISL.com.
"We are playing the Intercontinental Cup, the SAFF Championships and we might have a few more friendlies before the AFC Asian Cup. I think that's what the head coach Igor Stimac, the staff and the technical staff must be looking forward to because that's the only opportunity you have to work on your combinations and everything that you want to do with the team," he further said.
India, ranked 101 in the FIFA rankings, will take on Lebanon, Vanuatu and Mongolia in the Intercontinental Cup while Sunil Chhetri and Co have been pitted alongside Kuwait, Nepal and Pakistan in Group A of the SAFF Championships.
India were crowned champions in the previous edition of the SAFF Championships, but will face a stiff challenge this time around with Kuwait and Lebanon, two teams outside the SAFF region, set to participate in the tournament in Bengaluru. Singh further mentioned playing against different teams will help India assess themselves ahead of the AFC Asian Cup.
"They are going to play with some top teams in the Intercontinental Cup and the SAFF Championships and if you face some quality teams before the AFC Asian Cup, it will give them a realistic chance of knowing how far the team has come and where they stand. It's always a different challenge to play against quality opponents, maybe even against some teams that are better than you. It gives you a chance to reflect and see how far you have come," he explained.
The Blue Tigers will be involved again after the conclusion of these two tournaments in India with the Kings Cup (Thailand) and Merdeka Cup (Malaysia) scheduled for September and October respectively. (ANI)