2019 AFC Asian Cup: How India missed and Kyrgyz Republic capitalised on the opportunity to earn a better draw
India have missed out on the opportunity to enter the 2019 AFC Asian Cup draw in Pot 2, after losing their last qualifying match 2-1 at the hands of Kyrgyzstan in Bishkek, on Tuesday.
The Blue Tigers, who were on a 13-match unbeaten run till now, went into the Kyrgyz Republic game, with the hope of making it five wins out of six in the group. However, two goals from Zemlianukhin Anton and Murzaev Mirlan in each half sealed the deal for the home side. Jeje Lalpekhlua did pull one back for India in the end, but it was too little, too late.
This loss essentially means that India, who are currently ranked 13th among the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) sides, will drop one spot to 14th. The Blue Tigers, who went into the match with 339 points on FIFA rankings table, will gain only another 15 points for their narrow loss away from home, taking them to 354.
The AFC Asian Cup is set to have 24 teams divided into six groups, with four teams going into each group. For the draws, the teams will be divided into four pots, consisting of six sides each.
The top six ranked teams in Asia obviously go into Pot 1. Set to be placed on 14th, India will now go into Pot 3, along with the likes of Lebanon, Qatar, Oman, Vietnam and Turkmenistan in the Asian Cup group stage. However, the Blue Tigers had the chance of making it to Pot 2, which would have ensured that they would have avoided even higher ranked sides.
The missed opportunity
A win away at the Kyrgyz Republic would have done wonders for India in the AFC Asian Cup draw. Essentially, this result would have taken the Blue Tigers up to 422, which is higher than the number of points 12th-ranked side (currently) Lebanon would stand on (404) after their 2-1 win over Malaysia.
Incidentally, their 2-1 victory over India will take the Kyrgyz Republic to 424 points, which is a huge jump from their current tally of 282. This guarantees them a spot in Pot 2, as Lebanon will drop to Pot 3.
Thus, India would have eliminated the chance of facing the likes of China (who are set to drop out of the top six AFC spots), Palestine, UAE, Syria and Iraq, essentially making them the second-best team in the group that they would have been placed.
However, the Indian football fans can still take heart from the fact that the Blue Tigers will avoid sides like Lebanon, Qatar, Oman, Vietnam and North Korea. Also, unlike the World Cups where only the top two teams from each group, the AFC Asian Cup will see the top two teams from each group, plus the four best third-placed teams also make it to the Round of 16.