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India and the World Cup 2022 

India and the World Cup 2022 
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Published: 9 March 2020 6:09 AM GMT

Light at the end of the tunnel

Indian International soccer fans were left with disappointment during their World Cup 2022 qualifiers, and it was a sad one after they began with such a positive start. Under the watchful eye of new head coach Igor Stimac of Croatia, India was avoiding defeat withdrawn fixtures in three of their qualifying matches. Oman became an omen for India after defeating them twice in both qualifying legs.

It wasn’t like anybody was expecting India to win the world cup, but just a qualification would’ve been a huge boost for the country. Bookmakers weren’t under any illusion; the odds for India to win at +450000 were an obvious reach.

The best result for India during their qualifying campaign was a goalless draw against Asian champions Qatar; in a game where Indian goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu would save an astonishing 27 shots that Qatar put in front of him.

India’s missed opportunity handed fans a few hopeful moments. They lost their opening qualifier to Oman but kept their chances alive in making it to Russia after holding the Asian champions Qatar to a goalless draw. Notably, they did this away from home. The problem came when draws against Bangladesh and Afghanistan left India with no wins against teams they should’ve beaten.

“In the games against lower-ranked opposition, where the onus is on India to create openings, we have struggled. that’s because our players are struggling to break them down, not being patient enough, and often just playing the safe option,” said former captain ‘Renedy Singh’ to an Indian newspaper.

In hindsight, India will feel their inability to win games against the lower-ranked sides such as Bangladesh and Afghanistan were what cost them their chances at 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification.

There’s still hope for India

With their FIFA World Cup dreams crushed by Oman, the Indian internationals will be turning their attention to the 2023 AFC Asian cup. In able to qualify for the cup they’ll need to place in third place of the group; something easily obtainable if their focus is kept.

Coach Igor Stimac is confident that his team will have no problems in qualifying for the AFC Asian cup.

“We have more quality than Bangladesh and Afghanistan, although we need to show that on the field for 90 minutes. We still haven’t found a way to fight with the quality in the final third of the pitch. That was our main problem against Afghanistan and Bangladesh, even Oman when, for the first time, we had more ball possession and adopted a different approach to the game,” the new Indian coach was quoted as saying.

The 52-year-old Stimac said he’s loving every second as India coach since his appointment six months back.

"I've loved every second so far. It is a privilege to lead the national team of such a vast and great country. The passion is there. People might not think India as a football country but it really depends where you go. In some regions, cricket is pretty dominant but in other parts, football is as important for the people as it was for me growing up in Croatia.

"It's always been said that India is a sleeping giant when it comes to football, and that's true — because the potential is there. Together, we have to start waking that giant and make sure that we're competitive at the next Asian Cup and going on to the World Cup qualifiers in 2026," said Igor.

The former Croatian international defender was the manager of Qatar Stars League side Al Shahania in the 2016-17 season.

"It will be a pity (for India) to miss out on Qatar in 2022 because I think it will be the most fascinating World Cup ever. I coached in Qatar for a while and I've been back to visit since stopping work there. It's an incredible country and the people there will make the World Cup a huge success. I know there have been doubts but, honestly, it's going to be amazing." said the head coach.

The coach added, “Whoever is there at the other end, it will be difficult to beat us”, in regards to India’s AFC cup chances.

He continued to say, “I am not saying it will not happen. It may. But it will also show our higher quality. Our next step of training in April and May is to work out in the final third and find a way when we are considered favourites, against teams, ranked below us. We now have a winning mindset and that’s the biggest gain for me in the past few months of our work together. Not winning these games is part of the process.”

Igor Stimac and the Indian international football team will play their next game in the World Cup qualifying match with Qatar on March 26th.

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