The Indian men's football team have been handed a formidable group in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. Stephen Constantine's men have been drawn in Group A of the marquee continental competition alongside Thailand, Bahrain and hosts UAE. Coached by the former Inter Milan and Juventus manager Alberto Zaccheroni, UAE are currently in the 81st position in the most recent FIFA rankings.
The side had advanced all the way to the semi-finals in the 2015 edition of the Asian Cup before losing to Australia.
The White Jerseys' recent record has been a bit of a mixed bag. After an impressive runners-up finish in eight-nation Gulf Cup at the start of the year, they finished bottom in the recently held four-nation Kings Cup in Thailand. Zaccheroni's men got the better of Iraq in the semi-finals of the Gulf Cup of Nations before going down in a penalty-shootout to champions Oman in the finals. Disappointment lay in store for the UAE in the Kings Cup held this March as they were beaten by Slovakia in the semi-final before a loss to African nation Gabon in the third-place play-off confirmed a bottom-placed finish.
1. 2017-18 Gulf Cup of Nations - KUWAIT 0-0 UAE
After a win against Oman and a draw against Saudi Arabia, UAE were pitted against hosts Kuwait in the final Group A clash on December 28, 2017. In an evenly contested affair, UAE just about shaded the possession but there would be no goals to separate the two teams at the end of 90 minutes.
It was the hosts who had more attempts at goal with five compared to the UAE's four.
2. 2017-18 Gulf Cup of Nations Semi-final - (P) IRAQ 0 (4)-(2) 0 UAE
Up against the formidable Iraq in the semi-final of the competition on January 2, 2018, UAE produced a gritty display to book their place in the summit clash. Both sides went toe-to-toe for 120 minutes with Iraq having the better of the chances but a goal-less stalemate ensued, leading the match into a penalty shootout.
In the spot-kicks, UAE custodian Khalid Eisa denied Abdul Zahra and Humam Tariq to seal his side's way to the final.
3. 2017-18 Gulf Cup of Nations - OMAN 0 (5)-(4) 0 UAE
On January 5, 2018, UAE took on Oman in the final of the competition - an opponent they had beaten by a solitary goal in the first Group A game. It was Oman though who started the brighter of the two sides in the final and had more of the attempts on target. There would be no goals from either sides at the end of the 90 minutes plus extra-time, leading to a second consecutive penalty shootout for the UAE.
All four spot-kick takers from either side converted their attempts before UAE's star man Omar Abdulrahman missed the final one to hand Oman a 5-4 victory.
4. 2018 King's Cup - Slovakia 2-1 UAE
With only four teams participating in Thailand's annual Kings Cup, UAE's opening clash against Slovakia on March 22, 2018, was a straight shootout for a spot in the finals.
Two late first-half goals from Albert Rusnak and Michal Duris put the Europeans in the ascendancy before Ahmed Khalil pulled one goal back for the UAE in the 73rd minute. The Gulf outfit threw the kitchen sink in the dying minutes in search of an equalizer but Slovakia held on to their one-goal lead to book their place in the finals.
5. 2018 King's Cup Third Place Playoff - UAE 0-1 GABON
Zaccheroni rang in the changes for the third-place playoff against Gabon held on March 25, 2018. In a game where UAE dominated two-thirds of the possession, it was Gabon who created more opportunities in attack.
A 14th-minute goal from Levy-Clement Madinda was enough for the African nation to overcome the White Jerseys as UAE finished with the wooden in the tournament.
UAE will open their Asian Cup campaign against Bahrain before taking on India on January 10, 2019.