Palestine thrashed the Philippines 4-0 in their Group B match earlier today to qualify as group winners and knock the latter out of the reckoning. The result means the Blue Tigers, along with Hong Kong, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, will compete at next year's AFC Asian Cup.
This marks the team's second consecutive appearance at the continental event after they made it to the group stages of the 2019 edition. They won just one of their three Group A games to exit the tournament before the knockouts on that occasion. However, Igor Stimac's men will receive a chance to improve on that next year.
The team's qualification led to a wide range of responses on Twitter. Sports broadcaster Anant Tyagi believes the Blue Tigers should look to top their group with a win tonight and wrote:
"Palestine’s win against Philippines means INDIA make it to back to back AFC Asian Cups for the first time in their history. Now let’s go top that group tonight @IndianFootball #BackTheBlue"
Veteran journalist Marcus Mergulhao had a simpler response, tweeting:
"India have qualified for Asian Cup 2023. Congratulations to everyone :-)"
Sports writer for the Indian Express, Mihir Vasavda, chimed in that qualifying for the tournament is merely the bare minimum. He reckons the aim should be to reach the knockouts of the Asian Cup:
"No doubt qualification is important, but this should be the bare minimum for #IndianFootball. The actual target should be to progress to the knockout rounds of the #AsianCup. Shouldn't be happy merely by getting there. The bar should be set higher now."
Others also reacted to the news on Twitter. Here are some of the best reactions from fans, analysts and others on the social media platform:
India look to end 2023 AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers on a high
Having qualified for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup, the Blue Tigers will look to end their qualifying campaign on a high. A win over Hong Kong at the Salt Lake Stadium will take them into next year's showpiece event as group winners.
Their next opponents, though, have been in excellent form, beating Afghanistan and Cambodia in their first two qualifiers. However, Hong Kong will arguably face their stiffest test against Stimac's men, who are also coming off successive wins.
The two teams last locked horns in 2010, with Hong Kong winning 1-0 on that occasion. However, the Blue Tigers have won seven of their 15 meetings with Hong Kong overall, with four ending in draws.