The AFC Cup is moving into its latter stages, with teams already making it to the Zonal Finals. However, for the first time in seven years, there will be no Indian team joining them in the knockout stage, after both Chennaiyin FC and Minerva Punjab were knocked out.
There will be no Indian representation this time around in the AFC Cup knockout stage, as both Chennaiyin FC and Minerva Punjab were knocked out in the group stage.
Minerva stood no chance even before matchday six of their group, having collected just five points in five matches. Chennaiyin, on the other hand, knew that a win for them, and elsewhere, a loss for Abahani Dhaka would be enough to secure their birth in the next round.
However, as Chennaiyin won their game in the dying embers, beating Manang Marshyangdi by 3-2, Minerva lost their to Abahani Dhaka, thereby allowing the latter to finish as group winners. As a result, the Bangladesh side finishes first, with Chennaiyin in second, Minerva in third, and Manang in fourth with only the top team qualifying.
Therefore, for the first time since 2012, there will be no Indian teams in the AFC Cup knockout stage. On that occasion, it was East Bengal and Salgaocar FC who had finished last in their respective groups. East Bengal had been drawn alongside Erbil, Kazma, and Al-Oruba (Yemen) while Salgaocar faced Al-Wehdat, Neftchi Farg’ona, and Al-Oruba (Oman).
Since then, there has been at least one team in the AFC Cup knockout stages from India, despite the format change in 2017. Bengaluru FC were India’s representatives in the last edition of the competition and lost out to Altyn Asyr in the Inter-Zonal play-off semi-finals.