The Indian men’s senior national team are gearing up for the coveted AFC Asian Cup 2023, scheduled to happen in January 2024. However, before they knock on the door of the intra-continental competition, the Blue Tigers will be involved in international action in the upcoming Hero Intercontinental Cup and the SAFF Championships, set to take place in June.

The upcoming Hero Intercontinental Cup, which will take place at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar will feature Lebanon, Mongolia, and Vanuatu. With only Lebanon (99) ranked higher than India (101), the Igor Stimac-led side are touted as one of the favourite contenders to lift the title.

On the other hand, the SAFF Championships, which commences right after the Hero Intercontinental Cup, features Kuwait, Nepal, and Pakistan alongside India in Group A. Meanwhile, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Lebanon, and Maldives are stacked together in Group B. 

The Blue Tigers are no strangers to the two competitions – having won the inaugural Hero Intercontinental Cup in 2018 and the SAFF Championship a record eight times out of 13, most by any team. While AFC Asian Cup remains the first and foremost target for the Blue Tigers, former India international Renedy Singh believes the side should acclimatise themselves and reach higher peaks with regards to upcoming international competitions.

“It’s going to be a tough one but now before going there (to the AFC Asian Cup) what we do in the next few months is the most important thing. How do we play in the next matches, that is the preparation. It shouldn’t end after those three games, there are many young players, so we should not just target the AFC Asian Cup, we should go beyond that,” he said in an exclusive interaction with the

The former Blue Tigers’ midfielder, who made over 70 appearances in the national colours, feels the players should look at the upcoming two tournaments as a source of inspiration and draw strength from it for the AFC Asian Cup showpiece event and other international tournaments in the future.

With a few players inching closer towards the final stretch of their footballing career, Renedy laid emphasis on how this is the opportune moment for young players in the national team to carry forward the baton from the senior players.

“Now the preparation, whoever we play, it is going to be a good learning experience for them to do better and if you don’t do well, football will not end. We have to compete, train, and get better so that we can carry on. Yes, the senior ones will retire but the younger ones, they’ll have a good experience so that they can produce better football in the future,” he concluded.