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4 instances when India could have played in FIFA World Cup

India kick-start their FIFA World Cup 2018 qualifying campaign today, as they host Nepal in the two-legged qualifying match. Defeating Nepal in these games will place India among the 40 AFC registered nations who will then play in a round robin format.India is currently ranked 171 in the world, and haven’t done a lot in the recent years. Instead, the team have declined. Dutch coach Wim Koevermans resigned last year after multiple failures with the national side.The AIFF have most recently appointed Stephen Constantine as the new head coach of the national team. The British coach has selected a fresh side where most of the players have come from the U-23 national team.This new look India team is expected to do well in this qualifying round and go further in the process. The team has never made it past the group stages of the qualifying rounds. In this article, we look at four such instances when the team could have made it to the World Cup, following good performances in the qualifying rounds:

#4 2002 - Round 1 qualifiers (11 points)

One of India’s best possible results ever in FIFA World Cup qualification (AFC) was for the 2002 FIFA World Cup. They got eliminated from the group stages, as they finished third behind United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

India secured 11 points from 6 matches, same as Yemen, but finished behind them due to an inferior goal difference. Only UAE qualified for the next round. Even though they did not make it to the second round, India’s performance was commendable.

The men in blue defeated Brunei twice, one of which was a lopsided 5-0 win at home. They also defeated the mighty UAE at home. They successfully held Yemen to draws in both the matches.

They lost only one game in the entire qualifying phase which was against UAE in an away encounter. If India had managed to beat Yemen in at least one of the ties, they would have surpassed UAE and qualified for the next stages.

You can follow live commentary of the match here – India vs Nepal Live

#3 1998 qualifiers - Round 1 (4 points)

IM Vijayan was an important member of th 1998 team

The qualifying procedure was a little different for the 1998 FIFA World Cup. Each group had four teams who would play just one game against each other. India finished third in the group behind Qatar and Sri Lanka.

They were tied on points with the Lankans. India defeated Philippines, drew with Sri Lanka and suffered a heavy 6-0 defeat against Qatar. Qatar eventually qualified for the next round after having won all their ties.

India did a commendable job in the qualifying rounds except for that crushing defeat against the strongest team in the group.

You can follow live commentary of the match here – India vs Nepal Live

#2 1986 - Round 1 qualifiers (9 points)

Arun Ghosh and Sudip Chatterjee, Coach and Captain, 1986 football team

In the 1986 FIFA World Cup qualifying rounds, AFC divided the East Asian and West Asian teams into different zones. India was in Zone B, placed alongside Indonesia, Thailand and Bangladesh.

India fell short by two points and thus did not qualify for the next round. Indonesia secured nine points from six games while India managed seven points from as many games. India defeated Bangladesh in both the phases, held Indonesia at home and lost away, and drew against Thailand in both the legs.

This was one of the rare occasions when India came very close to making it to the second round of the World Cup qualifiers.

You can follow live commentary of the match here – India vs Nepal Live

#1 1950 - Qualified but declined to attend

In 1950, there was no ranking system in world football. FIFA World Cup slots were decided on an invitational basis. FIFA used to invite various countries on the basis of their respective merits. We can proudly say that FIFA recognized India as the best team in Asia in those days and invited them to play at the FIFA World Cup 1950 held in Brazil.

India was placed in Pool III in the tournament alongside Sweden, Italy, and Paraguay. Unfortunately, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and the Indian government were skeptical about sending the team for the tournament.

They refused the offer citing reasons such as the cost of travel, although FIFA agreed to bear a major part of the travel expenses, lack of practice time, team selection issues and valuing Olympics over FIFA World Cup, apart from the problem of players preferring to play bare-foot.

It was a golden opportunity to establish India as the powerhouse in Asian as well as in the world football arena.

You can follow live commentary of the match here – India vs Nepal Live

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Edited by Staff Editor
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