With the conclusion of the Final Round of Qualifiers, the 24 teams for the AFC Asian Cup 2023 have been determined. The Indian national team has successfully booked its ticket for the big event next year, granting the team a chance to fight for the title to become the continental champion of Asia.
While the AFC Asian Cup is the most important competition in Asia, it also acts as a steppingstone for the tournament of all tournaments: the FIFA World Cup.
India did not get a ticket to this year’s event in Qatar; however, hopes are high they will make it to the 2026 FIFA World Cup, when the new extended format with 48 teams will take effect.
India has qualified for the AFC Asian Cup 2023
The Asian Cup will start in June 2023, with all 24 teams now confirmed. The Indian team played in front of their fans in Kolkata in the final round of qualifiers to earn their bye for the event.
While India had failed to qualify in the second round of qualifiers, they succeeded in qualifying already before the start of their third qualifier match.
Finishing first in Group D, their ticket was secured even before the final qualifier match against Hong Kong kicked off.
It marks the first time in history for the Indian team to compete in two consecutive editions of the Asian Cup and the fifth appearance at the quadrennial continental tournament in total, after qualifying in 1964, 1984, 2011 and 2019.
In their debut year at the event, India made it all the way to the finals and finished as runners-up. They had a promising start in 2019, too, but narrowly missed the knockout phase.
Next year’s event is scheduled for June 16 to July 16, 2023 and will give India an international stage to prove whether they have what it takes to compete in the global event, the FIFA World Cup.
Next stop: FIFA World Cup 2026?
India is vying for participation in the FIFA World Cup 2026, as it will be the first edition to include an expanded 48 teams instead of the traditional 32.
It will also be the first time the event will be hosted by three nations, namely Mexico, the US, and Canada. As the presence and popularity of the sport have been trending upwards across the world – also in India – FIFA amended the format to include more countries in the big tournament to further drive global interest in the marquee event.
With this expansion, every continent will be allocated more berths for the coveted cup. Asia’s places will be increased by 4 to 8, giving India better chances at qualifying in 2026. Making it to the Asian Cup is the first step for India in this ambitious feat.
FIFA World Cup 2022 without Indian participation
This year’s event will be the last time the traditional 32-team format will be used – without Indian participation. The Indian team missed the qualification for the big event, ranking third in their group in the AFC qualification round.
Apart from Qatar, the host country, Iran, South Korea, Japan, and Saudi Arabia earned their tickets for the 2022 World Cup in AFC qualifying. Even without the Indian team on board, the biggest football tournament in the world will be an exciting spectacle.
The world’s best teams are already gearing up to fight for the coveted cup. Experts are analysing each team, with bookmakers from across the world calculating the odds for each country of winning the big event.
Many betting sites in Qatar, which have been tested and rated by experts, offer sports fans in the host country a safe place to bet on the tournament. Currently, Brazil is the top favourite for the big win, followed by the reigning champions from France.
The tournament will take place between November 21 and December 18, 2022, one last time in the 32-team format before the expanded format will take effect in four years’ time.
India has booked their ticket to the Asian Cup taking place in June next year, marking the first time the Indian team competes in two successive editions of the continental tournament. Will it be a steppingstone for the FIFA World Cup 2026?
Making it to the Asian Cup for the second time in a row and with the upcoming changes to the tournament, India’s hopes for a ticket to the global event are high.