New Delhi: The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has accepted the Indian body’s bid to host the third round of the 2023 Asian Cup qualifiers, which are scheduled to be held from June 8 onwards.

The matches will be held at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata. China will host the main tournament in 2023.

“We had bid to host the third round qualifiers of the AFC Asian Cup, and are grateful to the Asian Football Confederation for accepting our bid,” All India Football Federation (AIFF) general secretary Kushal Das said.

“We understand that playing at home, and that too in Kolkata will be an added advantage to the Blue Tigers in our quest to qualify for the Asian Cup.”

The Indian team was part of the last Asian Cup but could not make the knockouts despite a fine victory over Thailand in their tournament opener.

Das added, “We had bid with Kolkata as the venue for the qualifiers. The infrastructure in Kolkata is exceptionally suited to host the qualifiers with the stadium, the practice venues and official accommodation all very closely located.”

“The support from the host association, and the state government has also always been exemplary. We hope that the health parameters in June will allow fans to witness live action in the stadium.”

The qualifiers will be held across three match days on June 8, 11 and 14, with the group winners, and the best five second-placed teams earning a ticket to the tournament proper, which is slated to kick off on June 16, 2023.

The draw for the final leg of the qualifiers is scheduled for February 24.

“While 13 teams, including host China PR, have already qualified by virtue of their earlier performances in the second round of the AFC Asian Qualifiers, the final 11 places remain up for grabs for 24 teams in the decisive group stage to be held in June across all five AFC zones in six host nations — India, Kuwait, Kyrgyz Republic, Malaysia, Mongolia and Uzbekistan,” the AFC said in a statement.

The AFC also confirmed that based on the FIFA world rankings as of February 10, the 24 participating teams will be divided into five seeding pots, including the host association’s pot.

With a current ranking of 104, India will be placed in position 1 of the group that they are drawn in.

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