Ruff and tuff await India in Asian Cup test

India captain Sunil Chhetri with coach Stephen Constantine

The Philippine Azkals' first-ever stint in the AFC Asian Cup promises to be a tough one after the country was drawn into a strong group during the Final Draw held in Dubai early Saturday morning Manila time.

Hosts UAE will open the tournament - which runs from January 5 to February 1 next year - when they take on Gulf rivals Bahrain after being drawn in Group A with Thailand and India while defending champions Australia, who defeated South Korea in the final in 2015, take on Middle Eastern trio Syria, Palestine and Jordan in Group B.

Hosts UAE, Thailand and Bahrain are the other three teams in the group.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar, host of the 2022 World Cup, were drawn on Friday in Group E beside North Korea and Lebanon.

The tournament's most successful side with four titles, Japan are in Group F and will face Uzbekistan, who have progressed past the group stage for the last four consecutive editions of the competition as well as Oman and Turkmenistan.

India will play 2 games in Abu Dhabi and one game will be played at Sharjah. Al Maktoum Stadium and Al Rashid Stadium are the two venues in Dubai.

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Next year it will be the first time that 24 teams will feature in the tournament that will be played over 28 days.

Ahead of the draw, the new Asian Cup trophy was unveiled by Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa and former UAE worldwide Zuhair Bakheet. The last time was in 2011 when they found themselves in the same group as Australia, South Korea and Bahrain and lost all three games, conceding 13 goals.

The top two teams of each group will advance to the knockout stage with the four best third-placed teams of the round.

Designed and made by world renowned silversmiths Thomas Lyte of London, the new trophy eloquently communicates the powerful spirit of football's second oldest continental football competition.

"The AFC Asian Cup gives us the opportunity to rub shoulders with the best of Asia and play against players who many of whom play in many a Premier League across Europe, and other parts of the world".

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