What India needs to do in order to qualify for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup
India's route to the Asia Cup explained.
India face Laos in the second leg of the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers play-off round on Tuesday. The Blue Tigers hold a slender 1-0 advantage coming into this match after their win in Vientiane. Winning this game will result in automatic qualification to the third and final round of the Asian Cup four stage qualification process.
India had to play from the first round as they were ranked 35th out of 46 teams in the play-off round. The teams ranked 35 onwards had to play from the first leg.
India defeated Nepal 2-0 over two legs in the first round of the qualifiers among the teams ranked 35-46 in Asia as per their FIFA World rankings. India were then drawn in a group containing Iran, Oman, Turkmenistan, and Guam in the second round. The team could only manage a single win from their eight fixtures in the first round, taking them to the qualifying play-off round.
The play-off round consists of two rounds. India currently hold a one goal advantage over Laos in the first round and should they win, they will be one of five teams qualifying for the third and final round.
Losing the tie however, would put India into the second round of the play-offs along with five other losing teams from the first round of matches where they will be put into pairs with three winners qualifying for the third round.
The third and final round of the qualification process features 24 teams competing for 12 spots in the Asia Cup. The runners-up and third-placed teams from the 8 groups in the second round account for 16 of these 24 teams. The remaining eight teams are those from the play-off rounds.
If India win against Laos, they would qualify for the final round where they will be divided into six groups of four. The teams will play home and away games in a round-robin format where 12 teams will go through to the Asia Cup.
The draws for the third round, which starts in March 2017 will only be held after the completion of the second round of the play-off round which concludes on 11 October 2016. India could have a difficult third round as they could possibly face one of Kuwait, North Korea, Afghanistan and Lebanon amongst other much higher ranked teams which they could possibly be drawn with.
The other teams in that India could face include Bahrain, Guam, Hong Kong, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Oman, Palestine, Philippines, Singapore, Turkmenistan, Malaysia and Vietnam.
India would have to finish in the top two teams of their group in order to qualify for the Asia Cup.