The iconic Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata and Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati will be hosting the Indian Football team's first two home games in the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, with India being given a comparatively favourable draw in its bid to qualify for our first football World Cup finals.
Kushal Das, the General Secretary of All India Football Federation (AIFF) has confirmed this news to a media publication on Thursday.
The Indian Team will be in Group E where they will be competing against the FIFA World Cup 2022 hosts Qatar, Oman, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. Igor Stimac’s men will begin their race for consolidating their berth in the next edition of the FIFA World Cup when they lock horns against Oman in Guwahati on September 5 this year. They will then play their second home match and the third one of their campaign against Bangladesh at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata on October 15. Meanwhile, the 'Blue Tigers' will be traveling to Qatar where they will be facing the World Cup hosts on September 10. India will then play their next two away games on November 14 and 19 against Afghanistan and Oman respectively. The Sunil Chhetri-led side will then host Qatar on March 26 next year before they head to Bangladesh for their last away game on June 4. Team India will finish their campaign when they host Afghanistan on June 9.
Here is the complete schedule of India's fixtures:
September 5 - India vs Oman
September 10 - Qatar vs India
October 15 - India vs Bangladesh
November 14 - Afghanistan vs India
November 19 - Oman vs India
March 26 - India vs Qatar
June 4 - Bangladesh vs India
June 9 - India vs Afghanistan
Indian football did have its best era in the 1950s and 1960s. The Indian team have participated in four straight Summer Olympics between 1948 to 1960. Their best performance was a fourth-place finish in the 1956 edition where they reached the semi-finals but lost to Bulgaria in the bronze medal match.
India had the opportunity to make their first and only World Cup appearance in the 1950 edition in Brazil but did not participate in the tournament, backing out in the last moment.
Yes, Qatar will be hosting FIFA World Cup 2022. So the question is why are they even in the qualifiers when they are hosting football's prestigious tournament?
The answer is that Qatar are obliged by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) to participate in the Asian qualifying stage as the first two rounds also act as a qualification for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup.