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FIFA World Cup qualifiers: How India has fared so far in the second round and what needs to be done

FIFA World Cup

In the second round of FIFA World Cup qualifiers, the Indian men’s senior football team made a promising start. Although the Blue Tigers only won one of their two matches, the victory raised hopes that India will advance to the next round for the first time if the team qualifies. To do so, the team must finish in the top two of their respective group, which includes Qatar, Kuwait, and Afghanistan.

India began the campaign with a 1-0 home victory over Kuwait, which was also India’s first World Cup qualifier away victory in 22 years. The team then traveled to Bhubaneswar for their second match, which they won 3-0 against reigning Asian champions Qatar.

What does India’s defeat against Qatar mean?

The 3-0 loss to Qatar dropped India to third place on the four-team table, but India will still be confident of progressing to the next round.

The team will play two matches against Afghanistan in March, the first of which will be played on March 21. The second match is scheduled for March 26.

So, based on the team’s current form, India is likely to enter the competition as a favorite. If India wins both ties, they may be able to move up to second place. Kuwait, who are currently in second place, will face Qatar, and it will be difficult for them to keep the reigning Asian champions at bay.

Meanwhile, India last met Afghanistan in the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers in Kolkata last year. The hosts had then won 2-1, but the aftermath was extremely unpleasant.

Two positives so far

Manvir Singh’s goal against Kuwait, India’s only goal in the previous two meetings, will undoubtedly be one of the most significant positives for the Blue Tigers. Despite a commanding performance in which India dominated possession, it took a darting run into the box by Manvir to break the deadlock in the final 15 minutes of the match.

Manvir displayed great energy on the right flank before switching to the number nine position and hammering the ball past the goalkeeper in the far corner. He did not play in the match against Qatar, however, due to a muscle strain.

The brilliance of Lalengmawia Ralte (Apuia) in the midfield was another positive that the management would like to take away from the two games. He was seen holding the ball and distributing it effectively.

Aside from these, the switch of the ball from one flank to the other was particularly impressive. Against Qatar, the Mizo midfielder released the ball to the opposite flank and found Lallianzuala Chhangte, catching the opponents off guard.

Two negatives so far

One area where India still needs to improve is their finishing. Aside from the Manvir goal against Kuwait, the opposition goalie was barely tested in both games.

Furthermore, coach Igor Stimac was dissatisfied with Udanta Singh’s performance on the field and stated that he needs to pull his socks up following the match against Qatar.

Udanta did not appear against Kuwait and was replaced at halftime against Qatar.

“We’ve been carrying Udanta around for a long time, expecting a lot but not getting enough.” I’m sorry to say that the same thing happened today. However, we do not have the time to wait for some players. “Udanta will need to return to his club and show everyone in the country that he deserves to wear the national team shirt again,” Stimac said.

What’s next for Blue Tigers

The Blue Tigers will now prepare for the AFC Asian Cup, which will be held in Qatar in January. Stimac has stated that hopes should be kept to a bare minimum due to a lack of time for the national camp, which is only 12 days before the continental event.

India has been assigned to Group B, which also includes Australia, Uzbekistan, and Syria. India will kick off their campaign against Australia on January 13, then face Uzbekistan on January 18, and Syria on January 23.

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