The Indian men’s national football team is set to play in back-to-back AFC Asian Cup editions for the first time, but the Blue Tigers have their task cut out after being handed a tough draw in the group stage. 

Igor Stimac’s men face Australia, Uzbekistan and Syria in Group B in Qatar and will have to be at their very best to qualify for the knockout stages of the tournament for the first time in history.

Defender Pritam Kotal who is one of the experienced members of the team, claimed that the players were not expecting any easy games in the Asian showpiece. 

"This is definitely a tough group. Even we thought something like this could happen when we were discussing the draw. We were in pot four and in general, pots one, two and three consist of good teams,” Kotal told in an interview.

India missed out on the knockout stage by a whisker in 2019 when a late penalty against Bahrain saw them fall to defeat and miss out on the knockout berth having been minutes away from qualifying. 

Kotal, though, is confident that they can go at least one step further this time around. 

"It's all right. Facing Australia, Uzbekistan and Syria would be a good test for us. We will try to give our best on the pitch and let's see what happens. You never know, we might qualify for the next round. As players we are confident. I will tell everyone to support us and we will try our best for our nation,” he added. 

India will begin preparation for the AFC Asian Cup with the Hero Intercontinental Cup in June where they take on Lebanon, Mongolia and Vanuatu in Bhubaneswar.