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India to bid for 2014 AFC Challenge Cup

New Delhi: The AFC Challenge Cup, Asia`s second biggest football tournament, may return to India after a gap of six years as the country is set to bid for the 2014 edition.

India hosted the 2008 edition in Hyderabad and Delhi, which the country won to qualify for the 2011 Asian Cup in Doha, Qatar.

All India Football Federation General Secretary Kushal Das said that that the country would present a bid for the tournament.

"Yes, we are going to bid for AFC Challenge Cup. There is time now and we will present the bid to the AFC," he said.

The tournament remains India`s only hope to qualify for the 2015 Asian Cup in Australia as the country does not figure in the qualifying round of the continent`s premier event.

Under the Asian Cup rules, the top three finishers of the earlier edition and the winners of two AFC Challenge Cup tournaments in the intervening four-year period get automatic qualification.

The remaining 12 slots will be filled through a qualifying round -- the draw of which was announced in Melbourne today -- to be contested by 20 teams. The draw of the qualifying round is based on FIFA rankings.

India does not feature in the Asian Cup qualifying round as it is in the 31st place in FIFA rankings among 45 countries in the AFC.

The AIFF is also yet to finalise the country for India`s international friendly match scheduled for November 14.

"We are hoping that we can finalise the country in the next few days," Das said.

India had sent request to Vietnam and Thailand for the second international friendly but the latter has reportedly expressed inability to play the match.

India will play an international friendly match against Singapore on October 16 in Singapore.