Intercontinental Cup: India begin crucial phase with games against Lebanon, Mongolia and Vanuatu

'We've had enough time for preparation. We need to be physically ready for these games and take everything into our hands." AIFF

The Intercontinental Cup kicks off on Friday as the Indian men's football team begin their preparations for the AFC Asian Cup in January.

This will mark the start of a busy month for Igor Stimac's side, who will play at least six matches in the space of 20 days, with the scope for three more if they make it to the final of both this tournament and the SAFF Cup that follows immediately after.

Where is the 2023 edition happening?

The Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar will host the tournament this year.

Who are India's opponents this year?

India, ranked 101, will face 99th-ranked Lebanon, 164th-ranked Vanuatu and 183rd-ranked Mongolia. This will be the first of multiple ties against Lebanon in 2023. India are scheduled to face them in the King's Cup in Thailand and the Merdeka tournament in Malaysia later this year. Also, a possible meeting in the knockout stages of the SAFF Cup later this month.

What's at stake in this tournament?

This tournament and the next few months will be key to India's progress towards the AIFF's 2026 goal of being one of the top ten men's team in Asia. Here's a detailed analysis on how India can improve their FIFA ranking.


June 9, 4:30pm: Lebanon v Vanuatu.

June 9, 7:30pm: India v Mongolia.

June 12, 4:30pm: Mongolia v Lebanon.

June 12, 7:30pm: India v Vanuatu.

June 15, 4:30pm: Vanuatu v Mongolia.

June 15, 7:30pm: India v Lebanon.

June 18, 7:30pm: Final.

What's India's squad?

Goalkeepers: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Amrinder Singh, Gurmeet Singh.

Defenders: Subhasish Bose, Pritam Kotal, Sandesh Jhingan, Anwar Ali, Akash Mishra, Mehtab Singh, Rahul Bheke.

Midfielders: Liston Colaco, Ashique Kuruniyan, Rohit Kumar, Udanta Singh, Anirudh Thapa, Naorem Mahesh Singh, Nikhil Poojary, Jeakson Singh, Sahal Abdul Samad, Lalengmawia Ralte, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Rowllin Borges, Nandhakumar Sekar.

Forwards: Sunil Chhetri, Rahim Ali, Ishan Pandita.

Any key players missing?

Bengaluru FC midfielder Suresh Singh Wangjam, who has been a fixture in Stimac's midfield is missing due to an injury, while Mumbai City FC's Phurba Lachenpa had to withdraw from the squad late after picking up an adductor strain in the pre-tournament camp. The ATK Mohun Bagan duo of striker Manvir Singh and goalkeeper Vishal Kaith were ruled out of the pre-tournament camp as well due to an ankle injury and a shoulder injury respectively.

Who said what?

Stimac: "Each game will be a challenge for us. We've had enough time for preparation. We need to be physically ready for these games and take everything into our hands. Our players are here to prove that they deserve their place in the national team."

Chhetri: "Me and the boys are very excited. It's strange that we've never played in Bhubaneswar or anywhere in Odisha before in my career, so we're really happy to be here. Everything from our hospitality to training pitches has been top-notch, and we've made good use of the three weeks here. Hopefully, we don't have just three games here but four (including the final)."

When did the Intercontinental Cup last happen?

This is the third edition of the Intercontinental Cup, which was last hosted in 2019 in Ahmedabad featuring North Korea, Tajikistan and Syria alongside India. The inaugural edition in 2018 was hosted at the Mumbai Football Arena, featuring Chinese Taipei, New Zealand and Kenya.

Who won the previous editions of the tournament?

India won the inaugural edition in 2018, beating Kenya 2-0 in the final thanks to a Sunil Chhetri brace. In 2019, the hosts didn't even make the final, with North Korea taking the trophy home after a 1-0 win over Tajikistan in the summit clash.

The Intercontinental Cup will be broadcast live on the Star Sports network and streamed on Disney+ Hotstar.