Indian football has a lot of ground to make up

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India are at their lowest ever ranking. FIFA puts 168 nations above the planet’s second-most populous country. The All India Football Federation (AIFF) has targeted a place at the 2022 World Cup. Nine years from now, when qualification is over, one of those facts is going to be repeated with incredulity.

It seems that 2022 is the target for quite a few nations that usually miss out but in this case it is premature. For the 2014 World Cup, the national team was not one of the 20 in Asia to make the third round of qualification. That is not to say India will not improve but then so will many of their 31 continental counterparts that are ranked above.

Four automatic qualification spots mean there is a lot of ground to make up. It will take more than a few years. Before India can even think about the World Cup, they need to make the I-League a truly national competition, invest more in facilities, infrastructure and youth football, see more players get decent international experience and actually qualify for the Asian Cup – something not done since 1984 (the 2011 appearance came courtesy of winning the AFC Challenge Cup, a tournament for Asia’s lower-ranked nations). It won’t be easy.

Continue reading about The Challenge for India.

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