FIFA World Cup Qualifiers: What are India's chances of advancing to ...

6 Jun 2024
World Cup qualifiers

Aaditya Narayan

Jun 6, 2024, 09:57 PM

India's 0-0 draw against Kuwait at the Salt Lake Stadium today means that Igor Stimac's side have to do the improbable to make it to the third round of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers. With their last game away in Qatar, India will need at least a point to remain in contention.

The group as it stands:

Kuwait have 4 points in 5 games, one less than India. But they have Afghanistan at home in their last game, a considerably easier proposition than the one India face, which they will do without the legendary Sunil Chhetri.

Afghanistan, as it stands, also have 5 points, after an impressive 0-0 draw against Qatar.

How can India finish in second place?

Well, the simplest way is to beat Qatar. That way Kuwait will not be able to catch them, and Afghanistan will have to beat Kuwait by at least eight goals if India win in Qatar. So realistically, nothing can stop India from qualifying for the third round if do pull off what will be one of the greatest wins in their football history.

Now that we've given Indian fans an opportunity to dream, here's the more realistic scenario:

Afghanistan hold Kuwait to a draw, and India play out a draw in Qatar as well. In that scenario, Kuwait would be on 5 points, and India and Afghanistan would both have 6, which would help Stimac's men finish in second place, on account of their better goal difference over Afghanistan.

However, some hope for India comes from the fact that Qatar have rested certain key players like Akram Afif, Almoez Ali, Hassan Al Haydos, Bassam Al Rawi, Pedro Miguel and Lucas Mendes

What does qualification to the next round entail?

The third round of World Cup qualifiers would mean India would be among the top 18 nations in Asia, who would be split into three groups of six teams. That would mean 10 games - 5 at home and 5 away - against the cream of the continent. With their current stature, it would be too much to expect India to be competitive in those games, but the experience and exposure those opponents would bring could prove to be priceless for the growth of the national team.

Also, more tangibly, finishing second in this group now would mean direct qualification to the AFC Asian Cup 2027, which will be held in Saudi Arabia. If India don't manage to make it through, then they will have to play a set of qualifiers to go through to that tournament, to make it three consecutive qualifications in a row.

But now, their immediate future in the World Cup qualifiers hinges on them repeating their heroics from 2019, when they drew 0-0 against Qatar, while also hoping for Ashley Westwood's Afghanistan side to keep Kuwait at bay.

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