Kolkata (West Bengal) [India], February 18 (ANI): Defender Sandesh Jhingan expressed happiness on India hosting the final round of qualifiers of AFC Asian Cup China, 2023 and termed it as an 'extra bonus'.
The announcement that the third and final round qualifiers of the AFC Asian Cup China 2023 are to be hosted by the All India Football Federation in Kolkata, has been profusely welcomed by the Blue Tigers, and the head coach.
"It's a huge bonus to get to host the final round of the qualifiers in India. Thanks to the AFC for believing in us, and thanks to the AIFF for making this happen. Playing such important games in your own backyard is always an added advantage, and that makes me happy," said Sandesh as per an official AIFF release.
Sandesh stays optimistic that the fans will get a chance to watch from the stands. "I hope that the fans get to throng the stadium, and root for us. We need to go on to the pitch with not just support from the fans, but the entire country. The fans in Kolkata are extremely passionate, and it will be an extra motivation for the players," he added.
The qualifiers are slated to be held in Kolkata on June 8, 11, and 14, later this year. The six group winners and the best five second-placed teams earn a ticket to the Asian Cup in China, which is slated to kick-off next year on June 16, 2023.
Head Coach Igor Coach Stimac stated, "We are very happy with the confidence the Asian Football Confederation has bestowed on us to host our group league matches in Kolkata for the 3rd round of qualifications of the AFC Asian Cup China 2023. We need to prepare in the best possible fashion, and pray that the fans get an opportunity to be with us at the stadium, and cheer us to victory."
In preparation for the qualifiers in June, the Blue Tigers are playing two International Friendlies in March against Bahrain and Belarus on March 23, and 26, respectively.
"I am extremely happy that we are to play the qualifiers in Kolkata. We are all aware that it's the home of Indian Football, and it has been a so-called home ground for so many reasons. I think it will give us immense inspiration playing on our home soil. I just can't wait to get with the team and start preparing. I pray that everyone stays free of injuries," said Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu. (ANI)