AFC Asian Cup 2019: Predicting the best and the worst scenarios for India in the draw
A favourable draw can give India a much-needed push going into the competition and propel them towards the knockout stages.
The draw for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup will take place on Friday, May 4 at the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Present at the draw will be Indian skipper Sunil Chhetri, alongside other dignitaries.
The teams will be drawn into six groups of four sides each, in a format similar to UEFA Euro 2016. The top two teams will qualify directly for the knockout stages, along with the four best third-placed teams.
India have so far faced a tumultuous campaign in the Asian Cup. The Blue Tigers defeated Nepal in the first qualification round by an aggregate score of 2-0. However, they had to face disappointment in the second round as the team finished last in their group.
However, they got a lifeline, as they entered the playoff round where they had to face Laos. The Blue Tigers defeated their opponents 7-1 on aggregate to progress to the third qualifying round. Subsequently, the Indian team finished top of their group in the third round, finally qualifying for the main tournament.
India now find themselves in Pot 3 of the draw for the final tournament, which will take place in the United Arab Emirates.
The Blue Tigers had previously qualified for the final tournament on three previous occasions - 1964, 1984, and 2011. They even managed to finish as runners-up in the 1964 tournament. However, that remains there best ever finish in the AFC, bowing out in the first round in 1984 and 2011.
Any country's run in an international tournament can be affected by the group they are drawn in. Take, for example, Ghana in the 2010 FIFA World Cup or Turkey in the 2008 UEFA Euro. A favourable draw for India can give the country a push in the right direction whereas an unfavourable draw can have the opposite effect.
We take a look at the best and worst possible scenarios for India heading into the draw for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.
Best Possible Draw: UAE, Thailand, India, Turkmenistan
India have the best chance of avoiding high-profile footballing nations such as South Korea, Japan, and Australia if they are drawn into Group A, alongside hosts UAE. Thailand from Pot 2 and Turkmenistan from Pot 4 will also be of help to India and will provide a great boost. The Blue Tigers will have a good chance of qualifying for the knockout stages even if they manage to beat any one of the nations drawn along with them.
However, the Indian team will have to be wary of any potential slip-ups, especially against a Turkmenistan side who have already defeated India twice in the qualifying stages.
Worst Possible Draw: Iran, China India, North Korea
India will have to pray to the footballing gods to avoid being drawn alongside top footballing nations such as Iran, Australia, Japan, and South Korea. All four sides currently sit in Pot A and can potentially be drawn in the same group as India. Iran are currently the most dangerous side out of the four, having already qualified for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
China and North Korea will complete a disastrous set for India, with both nations boasting great talents. China is a footballing nation on the up while North Korea have in their squad some marvellous talents, most notably Han Kwang-Song, who has been drawing plaudits for his performances in Italy and was recently linked to Juventus, Liverpool, and Tottenham.
Whatever the result of the draw, India will look to do better than their last two stints in the competition, when they failed to progress from the first round.