The draw for the joint 2022 FIFA World Cup / 2023 AFC Asian Cup Preliminary Asian Round 2 qualifiers on Wednesday, July 17 at AFC House in Kuala Lumpur has brought up eight interesting groups for the 40 Asian nations still left in the qualifiers.
For India it is Group E in which the Blue Tigers will face Middle Eastern sides Qatar and Oman, and south Asian rivals Afghanistan (tough they are now part of Central Asia) and Bangladesh.
And interestingly some have termed the composition of Group E an easy draw for India, which I can’t agree with for different reasons.
So, let’s go through the four Group E opponents that India is set to face!
We start with tiny but oil rich Qatar, who were drawn from POT 1, the current AFC Asian Cup champions who only won the title in February of this year in neighbouring UAE in style. Qatar are also set to be the hosts of the 2022 FIFA World Cup for which they don’t need qualification but as these are joint qualifiers, they aim to qualify for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup to defend their title in China.
Under head coach Felix Sanchez, Qatar have made massive progress which is seen by lifting their first continental title and being currently 55th in the FIFA World rankings.
As Qatar’s the favourite under-dog to achieve great results in FIFA’s world cup, there is a great option of earning from that on online betting in India. As Qatar is still far from being the favourite to win, the odds that this team will get will be probably great and their opportunity to surprise everyone must come in hand at least once.
They will surely be the toughest team in the group and favourites to top it as well!
Oman are currently ranked 86th in the FIFA World rankings and were drawn from POT 2. Another tough Arab side, who will be a challenge for India, but if we want to progress to the final round of Asian qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup, then we need to get past Oman and not faulter as we did in the 2002 FIFA World Cup qualifiers with a 1-1 home draw and a 3-3 away draw in 2001.
Afghanistan currently ranked 149th in the FIFA World rankings and drawn from POT 4 are a team which India would need to beat, but the team has one strength and that is its potential to call on Afghan origin players around the world, mainly from Europe. While being a part of the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF), Afghanistan were a big challenger for India having even beaten the Blue Tigers in 2013 to lift the SAFF Cup in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Finally come neighbours Bangladesh, who are currently ranked 183rd in the FIFA World rankings and were drawn from POT 5. Bangladesh football has seen better times, but a derby is a derby and that might be the motivation for them to challenge India.
In this group realistically, India can finish as high as second, but if results don’t go their way, then also finishing in a lower position is possible. Team India under new head coach Igor Stimac has shown promise but that now needs to be shown regularly in these qualifiers.