Another FIFA World Cup, another difficult task for India
India will embark on a new FIFA World Cup trip with the first match of Group E in round 2 AFC (Asian Football Confederation) qualification for the 2022 edition - against Oman in Guwahati.
Currently ranked 103rd in the world, India, which also has a new head coach in the 1998 World Cup bronze medalist and Croatian Igor Štimac, will be considering his first qualification for the final of the FIFA World Cup; India withdrew from the 1950 edition despite an invitation. (India were not required to play the first round, held from February to March 2019, because of their improved FIFA ranking.)
Apart from Gulf champions Oman (FIFA ranking 87), India have been paired in the group alongside AFC Asian Cup champions Qatar (62), Afghanistan (149) and neighbors Bangladesh (182).
The teams will play a double round robin with games at home and away from home until June 9, 2020.
Here is the schedule of India:
September 5, 2019: Oman (home)
September 10, 2019: Qatar (outside)
October 15, 2019: Bangladesh (home)
November 14, 2019: Afghanistan (outside)
November 19, 2019: Oman (outside)
March 26, 2020: Qatar (home)
June 4, 2020: Bangladesh (far away)
June 9, 2020: Afghanistan (home)
And India's clashes against the teams said:
vs Afghanistan: played 10, won 7, lost 1, drew 2
vs Bangladesh: played 28, won 15, lost 2, drew 11
vs Oman: played 8, won 1, lost 4, drew 3
vs Qatar: Played 2, won 1, lost 1
India had finished the fund in the second round of the previous edition of the World Cup qualifiers for Asia. Grouped with Iran, Turkmenistan, Oman and Guam achieved only two victories.
Worse, since April 2001, India has won six of the 26 qualifiers they played. Those victories came against UAE (home), Brunei (home and away), Singapore (home), Nepal (home) and more recently at home against Guam in 2015.
The beginning of Štimac's tenure as head coach has also been mixed. Under him, India played five games, won one (against Thailand), drew one (Syria) and lost three (Curacao, Tajikistan and North Korea).
Even if India advances from the second round, it doesn't end there. There is a third round of qualifiers (between September 2020 and September 2021) comprising 12 teams, the eight winners of the group and the four best finalists of Round 2, divided into two groups.
The top two will qualify automatically for the 2022 FIFA World Cup . There's still hope for the team that finishes third in Round 3 — playing off against other teams finishing third in their respective groups of the third round, followed by an inter-confederation playoff round against a team from one other confederation (CONCACAF, CONMEBOL or OFC).