FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifiers - 3 Reasons why India could not live up to expectations
A 1-0 defeat in Muscat to Oman looks like the final nail in India's 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign. Despite starting with high hopes, the qualifiers have turned out to be a massive disappointment for the Blue Tigers.
Having played five games in the competition, Igor Stimac's men have only three points on the board and are yet to register a victory.
While Oman and Qatar were considered superior teams, the lacklustre performance and unsatisfactory results against Afghanistan and Bangladesh do raise a lot of concern.
While India have done better than its campaign for the 2018 edition, it is hard not to feel that things should have been a lot better.
When one looks back at the group and the matches, there was easily the potential to at least challenge for second place and make it to the next round. When one remembers that India was able to hold Asian champions Qatar to a 0-0 draw in Doha, the disappointment grows manifold.
With talks of progress reverberating around Indian football in recent times, the last three months have been particularly deflating. At the moment it seems, one step forward and two steps back has become the story of Indian football.
The celebrations after the late equalizer against Bangladesh in Kolkata were widely criticized and have made people question the 'mentality' of the team and makes one wonder if the team has the attitude to win big and win consistently.
However, a lot more has gone wrong for the Indian football team over the course of the qualifying campaign. Here is a look at some reasons.
#3 Lack of preparation
It will be naive to think that problems with Indian football are simply down to the players or coaches. As the I-League vs ISL controversy highlighted, the administration of the sport is far from perfect in the country they need to take the blame for what has transpired.
The reality is the team were the preparations were simply not good enough.
Going into a World Cup qualifiers with a coach only three months into the job is far from ideal.
The effects of the team adapting to a new system and style of play have shown over the last five games and probably if Stimac had spent more time with the team, it could have been a different story. However, with the Asia Cup taking place in January, that is still understandable.
However, one does have to question the scheduling of India's domestic leagues. The Indian Super League began on 20 October after India had played three games in the qualifiers. The I-League begins only begins on 30th November.
Basically, no Indian player played any competitive football from March onwards apart from those who were selected to play the Kings Cup in June and Intercontinental Cup in July.
Ultimately, the players were directly thrown into the grind of the qualifiers and lacked match practice. In the first game against Oman at Guwahati, the Blue Tigers were in the lead till the 80th minute but evidently, tiredness was setting in and they ended up conceding twice in the last 10 minutes.
It's worth pondering whether a team was fit and had regular minutes under their belt would have let this happen.
Moreover, one has to question why were more friendlies not organized. For example in October, India was playing only one game that was on the last match-day of the international break.
Having a match against quality opposition before that would have allowed Stimac to experiment with the team and also give players some much-needed minutes on the pitch.