India are set to play two key matches in the second round of the qualifiers this month….
India are all set to take on Bangladesh in the penultimate match of the 2022 World Cup qualifying second round group on Monday.
The Blue Tigers are out of the reckoning for a spot in the third round of the World Cup qualifiers and as such, their primary objective will be to seal third spot in the group and get a direct entry into the 2023 Asian Cup qualifiers.
India are coming into the match after a gritty 1-0 defeat to Asian champions Qatar on Thursday and will be looking to improve upon their performances.
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Igor Stimac’s men will want to improve upon their performances in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers at the very least. As things stand, let’s compare the two campaigns to see what are the tangibles that have changed.
India’s 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign
The Blue Tigers, ranked 171 at that time, had to play the first round of the qualifiers before progressing to the next stage.
Stephen Constantine’s side played a two-legged play-off against Nepal and beat them 2-0 on aggregate, thanks to a brace from Sunil Chhetri in the home leg. India were then drawn into a strong group that consisted of Iran, Oman, Turkmenistan and Guam.
However, India had a miserable campaign, finishing bottom of the table with just one win in eight games, losing all the other matches. Here’s how the table looked:
As you can see, the campaign was very much forgettable with India’s only win coming at home to Guam, a tiny island territory that had a population of just 167,000. The added ignominy was that away at Guam, India lost 2-1.
But more concerning was India’s defending, conceding a whopping 18 goals in eight matches and managing to score just five goals.
India’s 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign
India, ranked 101 in April 2019, received a direct entry into the second round of the World Cup qualifiers. Igor Stimac’s men were then drawn into a group that consisted of Asian champions Qatar, Oman, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
Having played six matches so far (only two of them at home due to the Covid-19 situation), India are fourth on the table with three draws to their name.
However, there is a stark improvement in one area that is evident. Though India have played only six games, they have allowed only six goals. It translates to a goal per match and is a creditable achievement given we have played the reigning Asian champions and a strong West Asian side in Oman twice. In fact, in two matches against Qatar (both at their home), Indian defence has conceded just one goal.
And it is unlikely to worsen further when you consider the fact that next up for India are arguably two of the weakest teams in the group.
However, in attack, India are yet to show improvement when compared against the 2018 campaign. But with two key games left to play, Igor Stimac will be hoping his side can improve their attacking output as well.