The Indian national football team has the opportunity to qualify for back-to-back AFC Asian Cup tournaments for the first time ever after having reached them in 2019. These Asian Cup qualifiers give the national team a chance to attain some much-needed continuity when everything around Indian football, at least on the administrative end, has been nothing short of chaotic in the past few months.
In front of them stand teams like Cambodia, Afghanistan and Hong Kong. While FIFA rankings place India higher than these teams, Igor Stimac’s tenure has seen the national team fare poorly against countries ranked lower than them.
The first step towards becoming a better football team has to be consistency in qualifying for Asia’s premier tournament. This is why the importance of an AFC Asian Cup is higher for India, than the FIFA World Cup or the Olympics – tournaments for whom qualification remains rather unattainable. Three good Indian results in the next seven days could catapult the team into that position – where a chance to compete against better nations, at least on the continental level, beckons.
Missing a dynamic midfield player like Apuia Ralte (out injured), who showed his technical ability in the midfield for Mumbai City FC in the Asian Champions League will be detrimental to the national team. But consequently, the 37-year-old crutch of Indian football Sunil Chhetri makes his return for these three crucial games at Kolkata.
Where to watch: India vs Cambodia, 8.20 PM, Live on Star Sports Network