As part of their preparation for the first match of the third round of the 2019 Asian Cup qualifiers, India will play Cambodia in Phnom Penh on March 22, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) announced on Thursday.
India open their Asian Cup qualifiers against Myanmar away on March 28. Also in the group are Kyrgyzstan and Macau. The winners and runners-up will qualify for the 2019 Asian Cup finals. India last played the Asian Cup finals in 2011 after 27 years.
India lost 0-1 to Myanmar in the AFC Challenge Cup in March 2013 under head coach Wim Koevermans.
Cambodia are 172nd on the rankings list issued by Fifa in January. India are 129. India beat Cambodia 6-0 in a Nehru Cup match in 2007 when the visiting team was coached by Scott O’Donnell who subsequently became India’s technical director. O’Donnell’s term ended on Wednesday.
“The match will help the team prepare better for the crucial first match against Myanmar,” said AIFF general secretary Kushal Das in a media release.
“I appreciate the efforts of the AIFF in helping me secure the match,” said head coach Stephen Constantine. “The International Friendly (sic) will help the players understand each other better ahead of our tough challenge against Myanmar. The idea is to play against a team close to Myanmar with regards to climatic conditions,” said Constantine.
“We plan to train in Cambodia for some days before proceeding to Yangon directly for our first match in the Qualifiers”, he added.
The match against Cambodia will be India’s first since the 4-1 win against Puerto Rico, who were then ranked 114, 38 spots above the hosts, in Mumbai last September. It was India’s fourth straight win in 2016 under Constantine whose contract was renewed till the Asian Cup qualifiers in 2016.