The 2019 AFC Asian Cup will start on 5th January with the hosts, UAE, locking horns against Bahrain at the Zayed Sports Stadium in Abu Dhabi. The 24 qualified teams have been divided into six groups of four teams each, with the winners and runners-up advancing to the knockout stages.
The third-place team, too, can qualify for the Round of 16 if they finish in the top four amongst the six best third-placed teams.
Going by the FIFA Rankings, the two highest ranked team shouldn't find it tough to advance to the next stage. However, we have all seen astonishing group stage send-offs in major tournaments, with Germany's ouster at the 2018 FIFA World Cup being the most recent one.
This coming year at UAE, do expect the minnows to upset the giants and send them home early. Here are five teams who could make a shocking group stage exit in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.
Group A- India (Current FIFA rank- 97)
Note: The figures in the bracket indicate the FIFA ranking of the senior teams.
India is placed in Group A of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup alongside UAE, Thailand, and Bahrain. The Blue Tigers are currently ranked 97, with the hosts being the only country ranked higher than them. But, they cannot underestimate Thailand and Bahrain who are equally dangerous.
Bahrain (113) has held China (76), Palestine (99), and Philippines (116) to a draw in this calendar year. Thailand (118), on the other hand, hasn't lost a single match since their 0-2 loss to China at home on 2nd June.
Beating the then 90th ranked Trinidad & Tobago 1-0 at home and staying undefeated in the recently concluded AFF Cup are some commendable performances the War Elephants would be taking inspiration from.
India's only spirited performance in 2018 has been the 0-0 draw against China away from home.
Apart from the loss against Jordan and Kyrgyz Republic, they haven't yet faced oppositions of the caliber of UAE, Thailand, and Bahrain in 2018. They will cross swords with Oman on 27th December but, the canceled friendly against Syria could prove to be a dent in their preparations.