2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers Draw: India to lock horns with hosts Qatar, Oman, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh in Group E
The draw for the second round of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers was successfully held at the AFC House in Kuala Lumpur, and India learned their opponents will be Qatar, Oman, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh.
Australian legend Tim Cahill had the honour of allocating teams in various groups. Speaking at the event, the former Jamshedpur FC captain said that emerging nations, including India, have taken huge steps to improve the game in their nation and the gap between them and top teams have narrowed down drastically.
Qatar has already qualified for the 2022 FIFA World Cup by virtue of being the hosts. However, the World Cup qualifiers also double up as 2023 Asian Cup Qualifiers, which will be held in China. Hence, they are taking part in the second round of the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers.
The Middle East nation made a special request to AFC to swap their position with the team from Pot 5 once they have been allocated their group. Qatar has been invited to participate in the 2020 Copa America, and this move will help them avoid fixture congestion.
In its Strategic Plan, AIFF has set the target to qualify for the third round of the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers. To do so, India needs to either top Group E or finish as one of the best four second-placed teams.
India's hopes of playing the 2022 FIFA World Cup will end if they fail to reach the third round. But, if they reach the next stage, the Blue Tigers will also complete another objective in their Strategic Plan- qualify for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup.
India will begin their FIFA World Cup Qualifying campaign against Oman at home on 5 September. Five days later, they will face Qatar away.
Here are India's full fixtures:
5 September 2019: India vs. Oman (Home)
10 September 2019: Qatar vs. India (Away)
15 October 2019: India vs. Bangladesh (Home)
14 November 2019: Afghanistan vs. India (Away)
19 November 2019: Oman vs. India (Away)
26 March 2020: India vs. Qatar (Home)
4 June 2020: Bangladesh vs. India (Away)
9 June 2020: India vs. Afghanistan (Home)
Here are the groups for the second round of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers:
Group A: China PR, Syria, Philippines, Maldives, Guam
Group B: Australia, Jordan, Chinese Taipei, Kuwait, Nepal
Group C: IR Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, Hong Kong, Cambodia
Group D: Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, Palestine, Vietnam, Yemen, Singapore
Group E: Bangladesh, Oman, India, Afghanistan, Qatar
Group F: Japan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Myanmar, Mongolia
Group G: UAE, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia
Group H: Korea Republic, Lebanon, Korea DPR, Turkmenistan, Sri Lanka
Addressing the media after India's solitary draw in the Intercontinental Cup against Syria, head coach Igor Stimac said that India should fear the teams in Pot 1 as well as that from Pot 5 in the World Cup Qualifiers.
While the Croat maintained that they will give their best on the pitch and hope for a positive result, learning that India will face Asian champions Qatar away from home before the domestic season begins in the country might worry him a little.
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, on the other hand, assured the Indian football well-wishers that the fans can expect a better performance from India than the previous World Cup Qualifiers, where they picked up only one win and finished at the bottom of the table.