Indian Football News: Blue Tigers to play Curacao at King's Cup 2019 in Thailand
What's the story?
The Indian national football team was drawn to face Curacao in the King's Cup 2019 invitational tournament to be held in Buriram, Thailand, from June 5-8.
The hosts Thailand will take on Vietnam in the other match.
While India's match will take place at 3.30 pm local time (2 pm IST), the other clash will kick off at 7.45 pm local time (6.15 pm IST).
In case you didn't know...
The King's Cup is a four-nations invitational tournament held annually in Thailand since 1968. India have participated only once before, finishing third in the 1977 edition.
Curacao, part of the Caribbean Islands, is the 82nd-ranked team in the world. The country tasted international success only recently after winning the Caribbean Cup in 2017. From 2015 to 2016, they were coached by Dutch legend Patrick Kluivert. Remko Bicentini, who served as the assistant coach to former Barcelona striker Kluivert, is the current manager.
India, on the other hand, have not appointed a coach yet since the departure of Stephen Constantine, who resigned following India's disappointing exit at the Asian Cup. Four names have been shortlisted for the role, including the favourite Albert Roca, a former Bengaluru FC coach.
The winner of the opening match will proceed to the final, while the losers play a third-place playoff game.
The final is scheduled for 7.45 pm local time (6.15 pm IST) on June 8 with the third-place playof being played at 3.30 pm local time (2 pm IST) on the same day.
Heart of the matter...
The Blue Tigers will be seen in action at the King's Cup for the first time after the Asian Cup. Having beaten Thailand 4-1 in their opening group match at the Asian Cup, India suffered shock losses to UAE and Bahrain to bow out of the tournament.
The draw took place on Wednesday, May 8, with the Thailand Football Association making the official announcement on their social media pages. India were earlier expected to play against the hosts Thailand but it now appears they have a tougher task at hand against Curacao.
Under Bicentini, Curacao have built on the foundation laid by Kluivert, beating Qatar (the Asian Cup champions) and higher-ranked Bolivia in friendlies. They qualified for the 2019-20 Concacaf Nations League and the Concacaf Gold Cup kicking off on June 17.
Some of their top players include Feyenoord Cuco Martina (Everton loanee) and Cardiff's Leandro Bacuna. Rangelo Janga, who plays for Astana in Kazakhstan, is their main striker.
The All India Football Federation (AIFF) will have to act quickly and get the ball rolling for the national team to help them prepare for the King's Cup. The coach is expected to be finalised on Thursday, May 9, and a national team camp will be called soon.
A good show in the King's Cup will help the Blue Tigers prepare well for the key matches coming up later this year like the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifying. India are also expected to host the Intercontinental Cup in July.