After securing a draw against Afghanistan, India qualified for the third qualifying round of the AFC Asian Cup, 2023. In a recent interaction with the press, the national team coach Igor Stimac spoke about his plans to approach the qualifiers' preparation.
"The plan is ready for discussion with the Technical Committee in the meeting," said Igor when asked about his plans for the Asian Cup qualifiers. The qualifiers will start from the first week of February 2022, which means that the Indian team will have more than seven months to prepare. These are the teams that have qualified for the third round of the qualifiers: Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Philippines, Singapore, Maldives, Uzbekistan, Jordan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Sri-Lanka, Yemen, Bangladesh, Nepal, Afghanistan, Palestine, Kuwait, Bahrain, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, and Myanmar.
"The preparation for the Asian Cup also depends on the next season of the ISL. It has officially not been announced when the ISL will be starting; it may be October or November. The delay in the announcement is because of uncertainty. We plan to start the camp in August to prepare for two friendlies in September. If ISL doesn't start early, we can have two friendlies in October as well", Igor Stimac.
Apart from the ISL, the other key factor determining how Igor Stimac and India approach the qualifiers will be the draws of the Asian Cup qualifiers. The draws will decide what kind of an experience the coach wants the players to have through the friendly matches before the qualifiers begin. The national camps and the friendly games will also help him get more time with the team than what he got in the last one and a half years.
India would be aiming to qualify for the AFC Asian Cup China, 2023. If India does qualify, it will be the first time India will qualify for back-to-back Asian Cups.