sunil chhetri
File photo of Sunil Chhetri.AIFF Media
  • India will start their campaign against Thailand on January 6 in Abu Dhabi.
  • The Asian minnows were winless in the group stage of 2011 Asian Cup.
  • Chhetri says Team India is confident of positive performances in the continental tournament.

India were handed a tough draw for next year's AFC Asian Cup as they were clubbed with hosts United Arab Emirates (UAE), Thailand, and Bahrain in Group A at the official draw ceremony in Dubai on Friday, May 5.

India captain Sunil Chhetri, Iranian legend Ali Daei, iconic Chinese player Sun Jihai and Philippines' star Philip James Younghusband coordinated the picks for the four respective pots as they helped AFC General Secretary Dato Windsor John conduct the draw.

India coach Stephen Constantine and team Manager Shanmugam Venkatesh also attended the draw ceremony.

The top 24 teams from all over Asia including hosts UAE were drawn into six groups of four teams each. Teams drawn together in the group will play each other once and the top two from each group will qualify to the Round of 16 along with the best four third-placed teams.

The Continental Championship will be held across eight stadia in four cities in the UAE -- Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah and Al Ain -- January 5 to February 1, 2019.

Great opportunity to play with the Best of Asia: Chhetri

Speaking at the draw, Chhetri said: "The AFC Asian Cup is an enormous opportunity for us and we are looking forward to it. Back home in India, everyone is excited and we have the blessings of all the people and we will do our best."

"The AFC Asian Cup gives us the opportunity to rub shoulders with the best of Asia and play against players who many of whom play in many a Premier League across Europe, and other parts of the world. It will be an eye-opener and even if it is a learning experience, we aim to be competitive and give our best on the pitch," he later told

"I was part of the National Team in 2011 in Doha where we last played in the Continental Championship. Qualifying to the Asian Cup for the second time in 8 years is great for Indian Football," he added.

This is India's fourth qualification to the AFC Asian Cup, the last one being in Doha in 2011. India had finished runners-up to Israel in 1964.

India - Group stage fixtures at AFC Asian Cup 2019

India vs Thailand - Al Nahyan Stadium, Abu Dhabi on January 6

India vs UAE - Zayed Sports City Stadium, Abu Dhabi on January 10

India vs Bahrain - Sharjah Stadium on January 14

(With inputs from IANS)