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Updated December 31st, 2023 at 16:31 IST

AFC Asian Cup 2023: We respect all but fear none, says Jhingan as fans rock Doha with welcome chants

Representatives from the Indian Embassy in Qatar also came down to the airport and the hotel to greet the members of the National Team.

Indian football team
Indian football team | Image:AIFF
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Wherever they go, the massive support follows. The Blue Tigers arrived in Qatar late in the night of Saturday, January 30, 2023, amidst much fanfare.

Upon their arrival at the Hamad International Airport in Doha, India were greeted by fervorous chants from what seemed like more than a hundred fans outside the airport, and outside their team hotel.

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Representatives from the Indian Embassy in Qatar also came down to the airport and the hotel to greet the members of the National Team.

Head coach Igor Stimac had arrived a day earlier in Doha and was there at the team hotel to greet every player as they made their way into the team hotel.

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While the fanfare went on outside the bus or the hotel, the team quietly completed the pleasantries and headed in for a quick dinner after a long journey followed by a good night’s sleep. New Year’s Eve marks the start of their Asian Cup trek in Doha.

Drawn in Group B against Australia (January 13), Uzbekistan (January 18), and Syria (January 23), India have a tough road ahead. However, the Blue Tigers are firmly backing their abilities.

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Defender Sandesh Jhingan, said upon arrival at the airport, “No group in the Asian Cup is easy. Of course, we’ve got Australia, and they need no introduction. But what we have learned in the last few years is that we must never fear any opposition.

“Believe in the work you do, believe in your group, and the sky’s the limit for this batch. We must stay humble, keep improving, and hopefully do something special,” said Jhingan.

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The Blue Tigers have had a great year so far, winning three trophies (Tri-Nation Cup, Intercontinental Cup, and the SAFF Championship) at home, before putting in commendable performances away from home in the King’s Cup (Thailand), Merdeka Tournament (Malaysia), and in the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers away game against Kuwait (1-0).

Stimac’s boys will now set camp in Doha to prepare for the upcoming AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023, where the top two teams in each group, along with the four best (out of six) third-placed teams will qualify for the Round of 16.

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While this will be India’s fifth appearance in the AFC Asian Cup, the Blue Tigers have never made it past the group stage after finishing runners-up in 1964, which was played in a round-robin format.

Jhingan said, “We have been getting some great support at home, and we’ve had a great year, which shows how fast we are improving. Now it’s all about putting in our best effort here and seeing where we can land up.”

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Published December 31st, 2023 at 16:31 IST

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