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We respect all but fear none, says Jhingan ahead of Asian Cup

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Doha, Dec 31 (PTI) They might be up against formidable and higher-ranked opponents such as Australia in the upcoming Asian Cup but star Indian stopper Sandesh Jhingan on Sunday said "we respect all but fear none".

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India are clubbed with continental heavyweights and World Cup regulars Australia, strong central Asian side Uzbekistan and tricky Syria -- all above Stimac's team in the FIFA rankings -- in the group stage of the Asian Cup from January 13 onwards.

Jhingan, one of head coach Igor Stimac's key players bracing up to appear in the Croat's toughest test of his coaching tenure, remained unperturbed by the task that awaits his team in the coming days.

Jhingan, upon his arrival at the airport here, said, "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.

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"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." At the Hamad International Airport, the players were greeted by more than a hundred Indian fans.

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 looked at the positives of the recent past.

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He 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." Representatives from the Indian embassy in Qatar also came down to the airport and the hotel to greet the members of the national team.

Stimac had arrived a day earlier in Doha and was there at the team hotel to greet every player.

Drawn in Group B, India will begin their campaign against Australia on January 13 followed by matches against Uzbekistan on January 18 and Syria on January 23).

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 in Thailand, Merdeka Tournament in Malaysia and in the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers away game against Kuwait (1-0).

Stimac's boys will undergo a camp in Qatar's capital to prepare for the tournament, 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. PTI AH AH ATK ATK

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