AFC Asian Cup: A look at India's group stage chancesLast updated on Jan 02, 2019, 02:54 pm
The AFC Asian Cup has seen sixteen editions so far, and as we move towards the seventeenth edition of the tournament with India being one among the 24 nations to be playing, it is the need of the hour to get a clear picture of the teams and assess India's chances.
Will Chhetri and company pass the group stage and better India's 2011 performance?
Looking at Group A members: UAE is the highest-ranked team
India share Group A with second-time hosts of the tournament, the United Arab Emirates, who are the highest in FIFA ratings among the Group A members.
Though UAE came second in the 1996 edition of the tournament, they have never won the competition.
UAE are managed by Alberto Zaccheroni, a former Inter, and AC Milan manager, who won the competition with Japan in 2011.
How are Thailand looking ahead of the action?
Since 2007, this will be the first time that Thailand will be taking part in the Asian Cup.
Though none of their previous Asian Cup campaigns have been impressive, the 111th-ranked Thailand team will be confident after being the group toppers in their second round of qualification.
India will be up against Thailand in their first match of the tournament on January 6.
Are Bahrain strong enough to trump India?
Bahrain are Asian Cup regulars, having been a part of the competition six times in total.
The team has shown their prowess in recent international friendly matches they have played, with comprehensive wins against Tajikistan, Lebanon and DPR Korea.
They will surely want to carry on their good form as they look to secure a place in the knockout stage of the competition.
Are India looking strong enough ahead of the huge challenge?
India are the second-placed team in Group A when considering FIFA rankings.
That does not mean qualification will be in any way easy for India.
Though the Men in Blue have recently put up solid defensive performances against strong opponents like China and Oman, they have a weak attack.
Manager Stephen Constantine needs to look at scoring if India want to qualify for the knockout stage.
Who can be India's key players this term?
Among active players, Captain Sunil Chhetri has the highest number of international goals after Ronaldo and Messi.
He could be the talisman who could determine India's performance at the tournament to a large extent.
Another exciting talent is surely India's goalkeeper, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, who, with his formidable built and skills, has truly made the difference for his country on a number of occasions.