The Indian men’s national football team is gearing up to participate in consecutive rounds of the AFC Asian Cup, marking a milestone in their history. However, the Blue Tigers face a challenge as they have been dealt a tough draw in the group stage of the competition.

Group B in Qatar presents a formidable lineup for Igor Stimac’s men, as they are slated to face Australia, Uzbekistan, and Syria. To secure a spot in the knockout stages for the first time ever, the Indian team must perform at their absolute best.

Pritam Kotal, a seasoned defender and one of the key players in the squad, acknowledged the difficulties that lie ahead. He shared his belief that the team was prepared for the challenges. In an interview with, Kotal said: “This is definitely a tough group. Even we thought something like this could happen when we were discussing the draw. We were in pot four and in general, pots one, two, and three consist of good teams.”

The Indian team narrowly missed out on progressing to the knockout stage in the previous edition of the tournament in 2019. Their hopes were dashed when a late penalty against Bahrain resulted in a heartbreaking defeat, causing them to fall short of qualifying by a mere few minutes.

Nevertheless, Kotal remains optimistic that the team can surpass their previous performance and go one step further this time around. He said, “Facing Australia, Uzbekistan, and Syria would be a good test for us. We will try to give our best on the pitch, and let’s see what happens. You never know, we might qualify for the next round. As players, we are confident. I will tell everyone to support us, and we will try our best for our nation.”

To prepare for the AFC Asian Cup, India will commence their training with the Hero Intercontinental Cup in June. The tournament will take place in Bhubaneswar and will see the Indian team playing against Lebanon, Mongolia, and Vanuatu.

As the men’s national football team embarks on their journey to compete in the back-to-back AFC Asian Cup editions, they are well aware of the challenges. With their sights set on making history by advancing to the knockout stages for the first time, the Blue Tigers will strive to showcase their best performance on the field. 

The determination and confidence expressed by Pritam Kotal and the rest of the team serve as a rallying cry for the nation to support their endeavors. The upcoming Hero Intercontinental Cup will become a crucial opportunity for the team to fine-tune their skills and build momentum ahead of the highly anticipated tournament.

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