The AFC Asian Cup determines the best footballing country in Asia. Founded in 1956, it is one of the oldest continental football tournaments in the world after Copa América.
India’s last appearance in the tournament resulted in a group stage knockout in 2019. They are yet to qualify for the 2023 Asian Cup but are on course to qualify once again. Japan are the most successful team with four titles while Qatar is the defending champions. India finished as runners-up in 1964, which was their best performance in the tournament to date.
To qualify for the AFC Asian Cup final stage a team has to go through three rounds. In the first round, 12 teams ranked 35-46 in the AFC Entrant List take part. India did not have to participate in this round as they are ranked 18th.
Nations who qualified to the third round of the World Cup qualifiers are automatically qualified for the main event. India did play a part in this round. They finished third in the group after playing eight games and securing seven points. And qualified for the third round of qualifiers for the Asian Cup.
The third round of qualifiers is the final step before qualifying for the main tournament. In this round, 24 teams will compete for 11 positions. The 24 teams are divided into six groups of four teams each and would play round-robin matches. The group winners and the five best second-placed teams across all six groups will qualify for the Asian Cup.
Matches will be held in June and India are in Group D with Hong Kong, Afghanistan, and Cambodia. All the Group D matches will take place at a neutral venue, the Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata.
If India wins the group, they will directly qualify for the main event. Finishing second, they can still qualify but have to be one of the five best runners-up in terms of points, goals scored, and goal difference. By finishing third or fourth, then they will be knocked out.