India put up a dauntless show at the 2018 FIFA World Cup as well as 2019 Asian Cup qualifier on Thursday in Bengaluru, but that didn’t suffice as the hosts suffered heartbreak with a 1-2 defeat against Oman.
Paul Le Guen’s side started the match fiercely as the visitors conceded an early goal at the very first minute. Oasim Said took advantage of India’s poor defensive skills, and scored the first goal.
India played the initial few minutes of the first half like amateurs, having a warm up in the match.
However, Stephen Constantine’s side upped their game from the 26th minute after Sunil Chhetri ripped off a stunning left footed goal.
The hosts really tried after Chhetri’s goal with chances appearing for captain, Arnab Mondal and Robin Singh. But, an unnecessary attack at the penalty box by Dhanachandra Singh led to another goal at the 40th minute. The goal was executed by Imad Al Hosni.
The loss certainly cuts India’s chance of moving forward in both the major tournaments. The rules suggest that the top two teams from each group qualify for the third stage of 2018 FIFA World Cup whereas the best four runners up from all groups qualify for the 2019 Asian Cup.
With Iran, Turkmenistan and Guam as the other members of the Group, chances for India seems to vaguely exist.
Each team has to play both home and away games, and yesterday’s showdown between India and Oman was just the opener of second round. Unlike the last time India faced Oman where they were whitewashed with a 1-5 defeat, on Thursday, the valiant squad put up a fearless performance.
However, the biggest threat in the group, even more than Oman is Iran. Team Melli (as the national football team of Iran is known) ranked number 1 in Asia, has been the most successful Asian team in the world. They’ve won the Asian Cup thrice, unlike India whose best result is 1964 runner up, a feat that was achieved 51 years before.
100 places ahead of India in the FIFA rankings, Iran has qualified for the World Cup four times, including last year n Brazil. Their performances have only improved over the years, and the Persians look to continue it this year as well.
On the other hand, despite having a lower ranking than India, under an English coach, Gary White, Guam can also be a threat for India.
No matter how much emphasis coach Constantine lays on FIFA rankings, sport can take any twist any moment. Think about Japan’ brilliant performance at the 2010 FIFA World Cup? They were rated “underdogs,” but they sure didn’t play like that, reaching the second round for the second time after 2002.
It was hard luck for Constantine’s side to be drawn in the same group as that of Iran and Oman. But, if India draw lessons from their loss to Oman, and use it to their advantage, an upset might just be on the way.