The Indian football team received a relatively easy draw in the second round of Asian qualifiers for FIFA World Cup 2022. Placed in Group E, Inda has been slotted with Qatar, Afghanistan, Oman and Bangladesh.
In the draw held at Asian Football Confederations headquarters at Kula Lumpur in Malaysia, the 40 Asian countries were divided into eight groups. All the teams will play the other teams of their respective groups in double round-robin systems where they will face each other in home and away conditions, starting from September 5. The eight group winners and the four best runner-ups will advance to the final round of World Cup qualifiers and will also feature in the AFC Asian Cup Finals in 2023, to be held in China. While the next best 24 teams from the second round qualifiers will compete in a separate round of qualifiers for the remaining 12 slots of the 24-team Asian Cup.
However, despite avoiding the big guns of Aisa and Plot 1 teams like Japan, Iran, Korea and Australia, India will have their task cut-out against teams like Oman and Wolrd Cup hosts Qatar. The outings against Afghanistan and Bangladesh should go easy for the Igor Stimac-coached side. Against Afghanistan, India owns an overwhelming record. They have won six of the eight encounters against them. While in the 28 matches against Bangladesh, India has emerged victorious on 15 times.
The last time India played Oman, the match ended in a goalless draw and it should inspire the men in blue for a spirited performance against the Arab team. Wins against these three teams should make the lives of Indian footballers easy and present them a genuine chance to advance for the next round.
Meanwhile, head coach Stimac said the qualifiers will be a tough challenge for the team. “It will be an enormous challenge for your young team. We have been drawn into a very tough group,” Stimac was quoted as saying by PTI. He further added, “We need to respect everyone, not only teams from Pot 1, and Pot 2, but even teams from Pot 3, and Pot 4. The Intercontinental Cup showed to all how strange a game of football is. The two teams which are playing the final (Tajikistan, and DPR Korea) are the lowest FIFA ranked teams in the tournament. That shows that everyone can beat everyone.”
Here’s the schedule of India’s matches in the second round qualifiers of FIFA World Cup 2022:
September 5, 2019: India vs Oman (Home)
September 10, 2019: Qatar vs India (Away)
October 15, 2019: India vs Bangladesh (Home)
November 14, 2019: Afghanistan vs India (Away)
November 19, 2019: Oman vs India (Away)
March 26, 2020: India vs Qatar (Home)
June 4, 2020: Bangladesh vs India (Away)
June 9, 2020: India vs Afghanistan (Home)