The AFC Challenge Cup 2014 qualifiers draw was held in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia on Tuesday and the Indian national football team has been clubbed alongside Myanmar, Chinese Taipei and Guam in Group A of the qualifiers to be played in Myanmar.
The 169th ranked Blue Tigers shall play their matches on the 2nd, 4th and 6th of March 2013. With the I-League taking a break from February 10 to March 23, Wim Koevermans will hope to hold a preparatory camp in the build-up to the competition.
India is the second highest ranked team in the group, with Myanmar being 13 places above them at 156th in the FIFA Rankings. The group, which might prove to be a tricky one for India to get through, is completed by Chinese Taipei and Guam, who are ranked 176th and 181st respectively.
The 20 contenders have been divided into 5 groups, with the winners of each group and 2 of the best over-all runner-ups qualifying for the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup finals, where they shall be joined by hosts Maldives.
The winner of that tournament shall then confirm their place in the 2015 AFC Asian Cup in Australia, for which DPR Korea has already qualified, having won the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup, beating Turkmenistan 2-1.
This shall be the last opportunity for teams to directly qualify for the continental show-piece via this route, as from the 2019 AFC Asian Cup edition, the rules have been modified. This would mean that the Challenge Cup winners will have to take part in play-offs with the two best remaining teams from the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers, who failed to qualify for the finals.