India to host Asian champs Qatar in a World Cup qualifiers in October

The Blue Tigers were scheduled to play the gulf nation in March, but the match was suspended following the pandemic.

By Naveen Peter

The Indian football team will host Asian champions Qatar in their 2022 FIFA World Cup and the 2023 AFC Asian Cup joint qualification match on October 8, 2020. 

This is after the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) on Friday announced the proposed revised match dates for the remaining round of matches in the joint qualification which were suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The home game against Qatar will be followed by a trip to neighbours Bangladesh on November 12 while the final round of fixtures will see India hosting Afghanistan on November 17.

The Indian team could also play a friendly in October since they will be engaged in the only game in a two-week window.

Initially, while the tie against Qatar was scheduled to be held at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneshwar, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) is yet to announce the host for any of the home ties so far.

The story so far

Clubbed alongside Qatar, Oman, Afghanistan and Bangladesh in Group E, the Blue Tigers have endured a topsy-turvy campaign in the qualifiers so far. 

A narrow loss to Oman in their opening fixture at home was followed by a hard-fought draw against the Asian champions in Doha that saw them earn their first point in the qualifiers.

While many expected India to build on the momentum as the competition progressed, the Blue Tigers were in for a reality check soon after as Bangladesh held them to a 1-1 draw in front of a packed crowd at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata. 

Central defender Adil Khan was the saviour for India against a determined Bangladesh side with an injury-time equaliser that saved his side for another loss.

The Indians would once again need a late goal to rescue a point against Afghanistan in Dushanbe, Tajikistan -- Afghanistan’s designated home venue for the qualifiers -- before losing out to Oman by a narrow 0-1 margin in Muscat. 

With five games played, the Sunil Chhetri-led side sits fourth in Group E with three points to their name. 

And with the eight group winners and the four best runners-up progressing further in the competition, India’s chances of making the cut look slim.

However, some quality results in the remaining fixtures could see them finish third and seal a direct berth the third round of the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers.