India at AFC Women's Asian Cup football: From podium finishes to qualification woes

India have competed at the AFC Women’s Asian Cup eight times but are yet to lift the title. India’s last appearance was in 2003.

By Aarish Ansari
Picture by All India Football Federation

India have qualified for the AFC Women’s Asian Cup 2022 as the host nation and are set to make their ninth appearance at the continental event.

The 2022 edition will also be the second time India will stage the competition, having played hosts in the 1979, which was also their first appearance at the event.

Since then, the Indian women’s football team has finished runners-up on two occasions and also has a third-place finish.

However, the last two decades have been difficult for India as they have failed to qualify for the competition since 2003.

But with India set to return to the AFC Women’s Asian Cup in 2022, let’s look at how they have fared in the previous appearances at this event.

India at AFC Women's Asian Cup

1979 – Runners-up

India debuted at the AFC Women’s Asian Cup in 1979 as the host nation.

The tournament was then called the AFC Women’s Championship and was eventually held in early 1980 at the EMS Stadium in Calicut (Kozhikode).

Out of the six teams, two teams were from India – India S, which was the senior, first-choice team and a second-string side called India N.

While India N endured a challenging campaign, winning only one match and dropping out in the group stage, India S remained unbeaten in the first round with three wins and two draws and qualified for the knockouts.

India S defeated Hong Kong 3-1 in the semi-final but fell to Chinese Taipei 2-0 in the final.

1981 – Third place

Held in Hong Kong, the 1981 edition featured eight teams which were divided in two groups. India were placed in Group A with Hong Kong, Singapore and the Philippines.

The Indian football team ended the group stage on top, with two wins and a draw and made the cut for the knockout round. The Indian team fell to Thailand 1-0 in the semi-final but confirmed podium-finish by beating Hong Kong 2-0 in the third-place playoff.

1983 – Runners-up

The field at the 1983 continental championship was reduced to six teams after Taiwan and Japan withdrew. The first round was played in a round-robin format. The six teams included hosts Thailand, India, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and the Philippines.

India qualified for the final along with Thailand by finishing second in the round-robin stage, winning all matches except against the Thais.

The Indian women’s football team had to settle for the second-place after Thailand defeated them 3-0 in the final. 

1995 – Group stage exit

After being away from the competition for more than a decade, India returned to the 1995 AFC Women’s Championship held in Malaysia and were placed in Group C with Japan, South Korea and Uzbekistan.

India were nowhere close to their previous performances and failed to score a single goal. The side exited the competition at the group stage after losing all three matches.

1997 – Group stage exit

India’s struggle at the competition continued as they faced another first-round exit at the 1997 edition hosted by China.

Drawn in Group A, India faced little challenge against Hong Kong and Guam but were beaten by group toppers Japan, thus finishing second in the pool.

However, India’s campaign ended early as only the top-ranked teams from the three groups along with the best second-placed team (North Korea) moved to the semi-finals.

1999 – Group stage exit

With the competition expanding to 15 teams in 1999, India faced a tougher challenge to qualify for the knockouts.

The Indian side began the competition with a 7-0 drubbing by North Korea and ended their campaign losing to Chinese Taipei and Vietnam as well. India registered a win against Malaysia, but it proved to be inadequate as the side bowed out of the tournament in the group stage, again.

China eventually lifted the title for the seventh straight time.

2001 – Group stage exit

India’s performance at the 2001 edition was similar to the previous edition.

Indian women were defeated 7-0 in their opening match, this time by South Korea, and lost two more matches in the group stage, failing to Chinese Taipei and Thailand. India got the better of Malaysia again but could not move beyond the group stage.

In the end, North Korea broke China’s winning streak by clinching the Asian Cup for the first time.

2003 – Group stage exit

India’s last appearance at the tournament came in 2003, where they failed to go beyond the group stage for the fifth straight time.

Starting in Group C, with China, Vietnam and Uzbekistan, India got off to a flyer, thumping Uzbekistan 7-0. But the joy was short lived as India lost their two other matches and were out of the competition in the group stage.

Indian football team’s results at AFC Women's Asian Cup

Year Host India's position Teams
1975 Hong Kong Did not compete 6
1977 China Did not compete 6
1979 India Runners-up 6
1981 Hong Kong Third 8
1983 Thailand Runners-up 6
1986 Hong Kong Did not compete 7
1989 Hong Kong Did not compete 8
1991 Japan Did not compete 9
1993 Malaysia Did not compete 9
1995 Malaysia Group stage 11
1997 China Group stage 11
1999 Philippines Group stage 15
2001 Chinese Taipei Group stage 14
2003 Thailand Group stage 14
2006 Australia Did not compete 9
2008 Vietnam Did not compete 8
2010 China Did not compete 8
2014 Vietnam Did not compete 8
2018 Jordan Did not compete 8

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