While India may have failed to qualify for the 2022 World Cup, the football team are still in with a shot of qualifying for the Asian Cup in 2023. This is because if India manage to get a third-placed finish in Group E, they will get a spot in the third round of the Asian Cup qualifiers.
The India team will face a tough match against Group E leaders Qatar on 24 March. This will be followed up by what should be a fairly easy game against the lowly Bangladesh on 7 June. India’s final 2022 World Cup qualifier takes place against Afghanistan on 15 June.
This could be a pivotal game for India’s chances of a spot in the Asian Cup as Afghanistan are narrowly ahead of India in the Group E table. The Qatar game was originally supposed to have been played in October 2020. But the match was postponed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
At the moment, India are in fourth place in the Group E table. The team picked up no wins, three draws and two defeats in their five World Cup qualifiers. Only the first two teams will get to go through to the third round of qualification for the 2022 World Cup.
Qatar are currently top of the table with Oman just behind. Afghanistan are in third place, just one point ahead of India. Bangladesh are bottom of the Group E table with just one draw and four losses.
Much of the blame has been placed at India’s head coach Igor Stimac. The former Croatian star was appointed to be the Indian football team boss after Stephen Constantine left the role in May 2019. Stimac started his campaign with an unfortunate 1-2 home defeat by Oman. However, this was followed up by a relatively positive result when India managed to scrap a 0-0 draw with the current Asian Champions Qatar.
From here India could only get 1-1 draws against the lowly Bangladesh and the mediocre Afghanistan team. With a 1-0 defeat by Oman ensuring that India won’t qualify for the 2022 World Cup, it represented yet another setback for the team.
Despite this, there are still many positives for Indian football. Gurpreet Singh Sandhu has earned a commanding reputation as a quality goalkeeper while players like Manvir Singh, Farukh Choudhary and Nishu Kumar have proven to be valuable additions to the Indian squad.
Unfortunately, there still is work to be done in improving the rather toothless India attack. While Stimac’s team can enjoy a lot of ball possession, their ability to convert possession into goals has proven to be elusive.
As such, the next three World Cup qualifiers will give Stimac further opportunity to guide India onto better things. If he fails to do this, then India could once again be looking for another head coach to guide its football team.