Kuala Lumpur: Head coach Igor Stimac has described the Asian Qualifiers Round Two draw for the 2022 FIFA World Cup and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 as an extremely tough challenge for India.
Wednesday's draw in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia saw India pitted against reigning AFC Asian Cup champions Qatar, Oman, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
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"We have been drawn into a very tough group,” the Croatian said to local media in reaction to the draw.
India, said Stimac, have to respect all their opponents in their bid to enjoy a successful qualifying campaign.
“We need to respect everyone. The Intercontinental Cup showed to all how strange a game football us.
"The two teams which are playing the final (Tajikistan and DPR Korea) are the lowest FIFA ranked teams in the tournament. That shows that everyone can beat everyone,” said Stimac.
India's Intercontinental Cup campaign on home soil ended following defeats to Tajikistan and DPR Korea and a draw with Syria in their final match.
Stimac said he will put the lessons learnt to good use in the Asian Qualifiers.
“I will teach the team to respect the opposition, but when we step on to the pitch, we will do everything to win.
"That is the way I am going to prepare my team. We are just at the beginning of our journey. I hope that it will be a long one,” he added.
The top side from each of the eight Asian Qualifiers groups, along with the four best runners-up, will qualify for the final round of Qatar 2022 qualifiers as well as AFC Asian Cup China 2023.
The next best 24 will advance to the final round of qualifiers for the AFC Asian Cup China 2023 where 12 places will be at stake.
However, should Qatar - having already qualified for the 2022 FIFA World Cup as hosts - win their group, the five best second-placed teams will advance to the third round.
The same will apply should Qatar finish as one of the best four second-placed teams, with the fifth best second-placed side advancing.
Photos: All India Football Federation
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