India qualify for 2023 Asian Cup, set for first back-to-back appearances

File photo of the Indian men's football team AIFF

The Indian men's football team qualified for the 2023 Asian Cup on Tuesday, even before taking the field for their match against Hong Kong, after Palestine beat Philippines 4-0 in the qualifiers. This is the first time that India will be part of back-to-back Asian Cups, having qualified in 2019 as well.

India are currently second in Group D with six points (behind Hong Kong only on goal difference) and can still qualify as group winners if they win or even draw the final game. But by the competition rules, they also cannot be the worst of the second-placed teams. This means that India are sure to go through as one of the five best group runners-up teams if not as toppers.

Later on Tuesday (8.30 PM IST) India will play Hong Kong in their third and final match of the AFC Asian Cup Group D qualifiers being held in Kolkata. India have already beaten Cambodia 2-0 thanks to captain Sunil Chhetri's brilliance in their opener and the thrilling, last-gasp 2-1 win against Afghanistan, thanks to Sahal Abdul Samad's moment of magic, ensured that India were best placed to go through.

As things stand, India and Hong Kong are tied on 6 points and are through to the main event. But this match will determine the group toppers. India will look for an all-out win as hosts and playing in front of a packed stadium in Kolkata while Chhetri will look for his 83rd international goal and Samad will look to continue where he left off against Afghanistan.