India was handed a tough draw at the 2022 AFC Women's Asian Cup on Thursday as it has been clubbed alongside eight-time champion China, two-time winner Chinese Taipei and Iran. India will face Iran in the opening match of the tournament on January 20.
India, ranked 57th in the FIFA charts, is the third-highest ranked side in the group behind China (17th) and Chinese Taipei (40th) and ahead of Iran (72nd). The draw was held at the Asian Football Confederations (AFC) headquarters in the Malaysian capital. India is scheduled to host the tournament from January 20 to February 6 at venues in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, and Pune.
"It is an exciting group. We respect all our opponents as all of them are strong teams who have qualified for the AFC Asian Cup India 2022. But we are ready to play any team," India's head coach Thomas Dennerby said after the draw.
"I don't consider any particular match as a key one. All three matches are key matches for us in the group stage. We need to do our job over 90 minutes every time we enter the field," the coach added.
The excitement around Asia's marquee women's national team competition is starting to build following the completion of the qualifiers where Chinese Taipei, Indonesia, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Korea Republic, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam secured their spots to the Finals. They will join the top three teams from the 2018 showpiece Japan, Australia and China alongside host India.
"The AFC Women's Asian Cup is the premier flagship tournament for women's football in our continent, and I'm proud and happy that India is going to be the host for the 2022 edition," said All India Football Federation (AIFF) president Praful Patel.
"I thank the AFC, AIFF and the Local Organising Committee (LOC) for jointly working together to bring a fantastic tournament not only for the fans in India, but also for all of the Asian continent.
"The AFC had recently come and inspected all the facilities in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, and Pune. We are looking forward to welcome all the 12 teams to our beautiful country, and I am confident they will be satisfied with the facilities, and hospitality," he added.
Asian Football Confederation (AFC) general secretary Dato Windsor John said: "The AFC Women's Asian Cup India 2022 promises to be another great celebration throughout the continent.
"Together with the All India Football Federation and the Local Organising Committee, we are confident of staging a remarkable tournament that will leave a legacy for many years to come. I must congratulate the teams who have qualified and will line up along with the top three teams from the last edition and our hosts India," he added.
The team had been on an exposure tour to the UAE, Bahrain and Sweden, where it played against teams like the UAE, Tunisia, Bahrain and Chinese Taipei and also played two friendlies against Swedish top-tier clubs Hammarby IF and Djurgarden IF. India played six friendlies in October and impressed by winning three and losing three matches.
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