How they qualified:
In the first round of AFC qualifying India defeated neighbours Nepal 2-0 over two legs, but they finished bottom of their second-round group behind Guam, Turkmenistan, Oman and Iran. The Indians suffered a historic 2-1 defeat against minnows Guam, but eventually qualified for the finals in the third round of qualifying topping Group A on 13 points. They saw off Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar and Macau.
This will be India’s fourth appearance. They were runners up behind hosts Israel in the 1964 Asian Cup, but in modern times they have never progressed from the group stages.
At the age of 34, veteran striker Sunil Chhetri remains India’s talisman. He made his senior debut in 2005 against Pakistan and has since scored 65 goals for India. In 2010 Chhetri had a short stint at the Kansas City Wizards in the MLS.
Englishman and globetrotter Stephen Constantine is enjoying his second spell as coach of India. He also led the Blue Tigers from 2002 to 2005. In the past the 56-year old has coached the national teams of Nepal, Malawi, Sudan and Rwanda. He is credited with steadying the ship after a few rocky years for the Indian national team.
What we can expect:
India want to qualify for the 2026 World Cup, according to AIFF president Praful Patel, but those remarks may be wildly off the mark. The ‘sleeping giant’ has suffered from a chronicle lack of development at the grassroots level, a faulty bi-league set-up and a disorganised federation. The national team has manufactured a way into the top 100 of the FIFA rankings, but it is telling that Sunil Chhetri, a veteran of many years, is still the focal point of the team. Coach Constantine (pictured) has brought a measure of stability, but it would be a huge surprise if India were to make it out of group A with the hosts, Thailand and Bahrain.
Schedule (Group A)
Jan 6 vs Thailand, Al Nahyan stadium, Abu Dhabi
Jan 10 vs United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Zayed Sports City Stadium, Abu Dhabi
Jan 14 vs Bahrain, Sharjah Stadium, Sharjah.
Goalkeepers: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (JSW Bengaluru FC), Vishal Kaith (FC Pune City), Amrinder Singh (Mumbai City FC)
Defenders: Salam Ranjan Singh (East Bengal), Subhasish Bose (Mumbai City FC), Sarthak Golui (FC Pune City), Sandesh Jhingan (Kerala Blasters), Pritam Kotal (ATK), Narayan Das (Delhi Dynamos), Anas Edathodika (Kerala Blasters)
Midfielders: Germanpreet Singh (Chennaiyin FC), Anirudh Thapa (Chennaiyin FC), Vinit Ra (Delhi Dynamos), Muhammed Ashique Kuruniyan (FC Pune City), Pronay Halder (ATK), Kumam Udanta Singh (JSW Bengaluru FC), Rowllin Borgers (NorthEast United), Jackichand Singh Telem (FC Goa), Hali Charan Narzary (Kerala Blasters)
Forwards: Sumeet Passi (Jamshedpur FC), Balwant Singh (ATK), Sunil Chhetri (JSW Bengaluru FC), Jeje Lalpekhlua (Chennaiyin FC)