Indian football legend Bhaichung Bhutia believes that the national football team, being the second highest ranked team in Group A of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, have a good chance of finishing as one of the top-two sides.
The AFC Asian Cup draw was held on Friday night in Dubai, UAE, where India were drawn against hosts United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Thailand.
On being asked about the draw, Bhaichung said that he is happy with the draw, as India have managed to avoid some the Asian giants.
"The draw is good. I’m very happy with the group that we got. The good thing is that we have not drawn any of the superpowers of Asian football like Japan, South Korea, Australia, Iran or Iraq," Bhaichung said to Sportskeeda.
India's last appearance at the AFC Asian Cup was eight years ago, in Qatar, when they were drawn against top Asian sides like South Korea, Australia and Bahrain. Subsequently, India ended the group having lost all their matches.
The only solace that the Blue Tigers got in their group matches were the three goals that India scored (two by current captain Sunil Chhetri and one by centreback Gaurmangi Singh). However, Bhaichung believes that the draw has been much kinder on India this time round.
"But that is also because we are ranked quite high. When you’re ranked higher, you are always likely to get a better draw. Compared to 2011, I think the draw is really, really good," continued the former Indian football team captain.
Another thing that India have in their favour this time around is that the top they can even qualify as one of the four best third-placed teams in their group. That essentially means that Sunil Chhetri and Co can even win one match and make it to the Round of 16.
However, Bhaichung believes that the Blue Tigers have the capability to finish as one of the top two teams in Group A.
"It's going to be very tough. But we’re not in a group that cannot be cracked. We are in fact the second highest ranked team in the group, so that puts us in a good position. If we can work hard, play hard, and get the desired results, we can even finish in the top two positions," said the former India captain.
Having gone on a 13-match unbeaten run over the last two years, India have certainly put themselves in a good position, with a higher ranking in the AFC Asian Cup. Now, facing a relatively weaker group than in 2011, it remains to be seen how the Blue Tigers use this opportunity to churn out a memorable performance.