India are just two crucial games away from booking a place in the 2019 Asian Cup. The side, led by Stephen Constantine, take on Laos over two legs in June to get closer to achieving that target.
The Blue Tigers, ranked 162 in the latest FIFA rankings released Thursday, were drawn in Pot B alongside Yemen, Timor Leste, Bangladesh and Cambodia. Pot A consisted of Tajikistan, Maldives, Chinese Taipei, Malaysia and Laos.
Only five teams will make it to the final round of the prestigious AFC continental competition.
"It is a tricky draw. Laos [ranked 182 in the world] are never to be underestimated," India coach Constantine commented to the AIFF after the draw in Kuala Lumpur Thursday. "They have been in a very difficult group in the (Preliminary Round 2) and gave good account of themselves considering the teams they faced.
"We will have to be at our best."
Just like India, Laos also bagged only one win in their 2018 World Cup qualifiers from the AFC zone. However, the Southeast Asian country recorded six losses from Group G, compared to India's seven defeats from Group D.
India will take on Laos June 2 in an away game, while the home game for Constantine's side is set for June 7. If the Blue Tigers record an aggregate win, they book their place directly to the final round of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. However, if they lose, they will move to the second-round of the playoffs.
The test for Constantine's men gets trickier thereafter.
A total of 12 teams have so far qualified for the 2019 Asian Cup and 12 more are set to join them. Here's the complete result from the draw: