The Indian Football Team ended its 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifying campaign with seven points in the bag. The Blue Tigers picked up only one win and had four draws to their name, which helped them finish third.
The Indian Football Team found the back of the net six times while conceding seven goals. It is a remarkable improvement from the 2018 World Cup Qualifying campaign where India won only one match and allowed the opposition to score 18 goals past them.
Despite dropping points against Afghanistan and Bangladesh, former Indian Football Team defender and current FC Bengaluru United coach Gouramangi Singh believes India produced a respectable performance. When asked to summarize India's World Cup Qualifying campaign, he replied:
"If we only speak about the results, I think we got the results to qualify for the next round (of AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers). We were grouped against Qatar, Oman, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan. Whether we like it or not, we have not yet reached the level of Oman and Qatar. We didn't expect to get a win against Oman or Qatar. But, at least we got a draw against Qatar."
Gouramangi Singh further added that even though India are ranked above Afghanistan and Bangladesh, the matches weren't easy.
"The expectation was to win against Afghanistan and Bangladesh. But again, all games are difficult. We got two draws against Afghanistan and one win and a draw against Bangladesh. That's the reality.
"If we targeted 9 points or 12 points and fell a little behind, we need to look into that. Regarding our playing style, there have been a lot of changes. Qatar was dominant throughout but we defended well.
"We were expecting to be a bit more dominating in the games against Afghanistan and Bangladesh to get the results we wanted but just fell short," Gouramangi Singh said.
Glad to see the defense line looking more compact: Gouramangi Singh
Having played as a defender for the majority of his career, Gouramangi Singh was happy with the performance of the Indian Football Team defenders. When asked who impressed him the most, Gouramangi replied:
“All of them. Picking one wouldn’t be fair. I was glad to see the defense line looking more and more compact with each game that passed. I’m sure with a few more games together, we can start to see them shaping up quite well. There is always room for improvement.
"But like I mentioned, they will only get better and better with more games together as they start to understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses."
Singh then went on to share his impressions of the players individually.
"Sandesh (Jhingan) had a good set of games, winning a lot of the aerial duels while challenging for the long balls. He’s been rocksolid at the back, marshaling the defense line for all the games.
"I was happy with Sana (Chinglensana Singh). This was only his 3rd or 4th (international) game and he’ll get stronger from there. He’s had a good season with Hyderabad FC.
"Glan Martins had a good round of games playing in his defensive role. Akash (Mishra) also looked promising and with more game time, he will only get better," Gouramangi elaborated.
We need to understand our limitations as well: Gouramangi Singh
There were lots of chinks in the armor of the Indian Football Team in their 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifying campaign. Gouramangi Singh believes there is scope for improvement but India should also be aware of their limitations.
"It's not just about the third round (of AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers). We have to improve as a team. We must play every match in the future to win. But, we need to understand our limitations as well. If I expect something from you that you don't have, then it is not fair.
"We wanted India to play in the World Cup, but that's not possible now. We need to improve not only for the Qualifiers but in general to set an example for the future generation of boys.
"If we look at the games against Oman and Qatar, the scorelines were very narrow which shows the improvement in the team as they were difficult games. If we can take the positives from these and work on them, I’m sure we can see an improvement in the results when we meet these teams again.”
Gouramangi Singh also went on to add that the players need to work as a team to cover up each other's weaknesses. For that purpose, he harped on the need for the team members to spend more time together on and off the pitch.
“Regarding improvements, I feel the defense line needs more games together to be able to understand each other better and balance out each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
"If a player is able to win aerial duels and times his tackles perfectly, it may not be his strength to hit those 50-70 yard long passes. Another player whose strengths are to make those passes can step up to balance this. Each player has their strengths and weaknesses and over time, with this team spending more time together, there is scope for improvement," Gouramangi Singh said.
The former India international also expects the team to be quicker in attacking and defensive transition.
"The team’s ability to react quicker to defensive and attacking transitions will go a long way. As a team it is important to see how quickly we can close down the man we lose the ball to in the attacking third as well as how quickly we can get the ball up front when we win the ball in the defending third. As a team, the reactions to these transitions is something that we can work on,” Gouramangi signed off.
The Indian Football Team's next international assignment is in September when it takes part in the 2021 SAFF Championships in Bangladesh. It also happens to be Igor Stimac's last tournament in charge of the Blue Tigers before his contract expires.
What's your take on the Indian Football Team's performance in the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers? Let us know in the comments section below.