India book AFC Asian Cup berth for 2nd time in row

India book AFC Asian Cup berth for 2nd time in row

Blue Tigers through following Palestine’s 4-0 win over Philippines in a Group B match

Kolkata: Indian men's football team on Tuesday qualified for the Asian Cup Finals after Palestine defeated Philippines 4-0 in a group B match in Ulaanbaatar.

The result meant that the Palestinians directly qualified for the 24-team Finals finishing as group B toppers, while Philippines, with four points, were eliminated despite finishing second.

It is the first time India have qualified for the Asian Cup in two successive editions, having made a group league exit in 2019. The All India Football Association confirmed the country's qualification on social media.

"HERE WE COME; As Palestine defeat Philippines in Group B, the #BlueTigers have now secured back-to-back qualifications for the @afcasiancup," AIFF said.

The 24 teams in the qualification third round were divided into six groups of four each. The matches of each group were played across different venues with India hosting the group D games.

All the group winners and the five best second place finishers across the six groups will qualify for the Asian Cup.

As things stand now, Hong Kong (six points) lead group D ahead of India on goal difference as both teams cross swords in their final round clash later in the day.

Afghanistan and Cambodia, who are yet to open their respective accounts and are already eliminated, face each other in the other group D match.

So, even if India lose to Hong Kong, they will still have more points than Group B runners-up Philippines (4 points) and will thus make the cut for the Asian Cup as one of the best five runners-up teams.

In their group opener, India rode on captain Sunil Chhetri's brace to blank Cambodia 2-0, while they secured a last-gasp 2-1 win over Afghanistan in their second match.

Super sub Sahal Abdul Samad struck a brilliant stoppage time goal to seal the issue after Chhetri's 83rd international goal was cancelled out by Afghanistan's Zubayr Amiri in an action-packed last 10 minutes.

Overall, India have qualified for the continental showpiece for the fifth time -- 1964, 1984, 2011, 2019 and now in 2023.

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