2023 Intercontinental Cup: All you need to know – Dates, Venues, and Format Explainer
The third edition of the International Cup will kick-start on 9th June, as the Indian football team prepares for an action-packed year, which will see them participating in the SAFF Championship, Thailand’s King’s Cup and Malaysia’s Merdeka Tournament. With the AFC Asian Cup just around the corner, India will aim to start their preparation on the right note.
The Intercontinental Cup is a four-nation football tournament, organised by the All India Football Federation (AIFF). It was started in 2018, when Kenya, New Zealand and Chinese Taipei were invited to compete. India won two of their three league-stage matches and then defeated Kenya 2-0 in the final to bag the prize.
While that edition in Mumbai went as per plans for the Blue Tigers, everything went wrong in the next edition, which was held in Ahmedabad in 2019. India finished last in the league stage, with Tajikistan, North Korea and Syria finishing in the top three places respectively. The ultimate prize was won by North Korea.
The entire tournament will run for ten days, where a total of seven matches will be played. The first matchday will be on 9th June, where India will face Mongolia, and Lebanon will take on Vanuatu.
In the second matchday on 12 June, India will be up against the team from Oceania, that is Vanuatu. Mongolia and Lebanon will square off in an all-Asian tie. The third matchday will be on 15th June, with India facing the highest-ranked team of the competition in Lebanon, and the two lowest-ranked teams, Vanuatu and Mongolia taking on each other. The final will be played on 18th June.
2023 Intercontinental Cup Dates:
9th June: Lebanon vs Vanuatu, India vs Mongolia
12th June: Mongolia vs Lebanon, India vs Vanuatu
15th June: Vanuatu vs Mongolia, India vs Lebanon
18th June: Final
After Mumbai and Ahmedabad, the tournament will now travel to the eastern region, with Odisha’s capital Bhubaneshwar all set to host all of the seven matches. The games will be held at the Kalinga Stadium, located in Bidyut Marg.
With a capacity of 15,000, this stadium happens to be the home ground of Odisha – the team participating in Indian Super League, which recently won the 2023 Durand Cup. It has also previously hosted international tournaments.
The 2019 Women’s Gold Cup, won by Myanmar, was hosted in the Kalinga Stadium. Last year, matches of the 2022 FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup were also held here. India played all of their three matches at the Kalinga Stadium, whereas the game between Nigeria and Chile was also held here.
As for international men’s competitions, the 2022 SAFF U20 Men’s Championship was held at the Kalinga Stadium. India won that tournament by beating Bangladesh in the final.
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All four teams have been placed in a single group and they will take on each other in a round-robin format, meaning every team will play a total of three matches. After this round-robin phase, the two teams who will be leading the standings will advance to the final.
It is important to note that in case two teams are tied on points, goal difference will be used as the differentiating factor. Back in 2018, India, New Zealand and Kenya were all tied on 6 points, but the All Whites were eliminated due to their poor goal difference.
In terms of fixtures, all eyes will be on the clash between India and Lebanon for multiple reasons. Firstly, Lebanon is the only team among the three invited participants who have a better FIFA ranking than India, with Mongolia and Vanuatu languishing far behind. Hence, the Cedars are likely to pose a big challenge.
Moreover, India’s record against the Cedars is poor, having won only one of the six previous meetings. Lebanon has beaten the Blue Tigers thrice, with the other two matches ending in draws. Adding a third factor to this new rivalry is the number of times these two teams will meet.
After the Intercontinental Cup, India is all set to face Lebanon in Thailand’s King’s Cup in September, while they will also meet in Malaysia’s Merdeka Tournament in October. Hence, the two teams are set to meet at least thrice in a span of a few months, and that too in three different countries, while they could also face off in the knockouts of the SAFF Championship.
Lebanon also has plenty of players who can cause Stimac’s team some serious problems. Skipper Hassan Maatouk has over 100 caps for the senior team and also scored 21 goals, Meanwhile, Mohamad Kdouh might be only 25 years of age, but he is a prolific goal-scorer plying his trade for Iraqi Club Amanat Baghdad.
They also have players with experience in European football, which could help them win this competition. Midfielder Mouhammed-Ali Dhaini plays for Trelleborg, a team competing in the Swedish second division. Meanwhile, Bassel Jradi plays for Apollon Limassol in the Cypriot First League.
The Cedars will be guided by an experienced manager in Aleksandar Ilic. The Serbian tactician has won the Serbian First League with Radnicki Nis, while he also has won Saudi Arabia’s prestigious King Cup of Champions with Al-Ahli.