India were only one among eight nations representing the South Asian division in the qualifiers.

The second round of the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers are now finally over. India finished their final qualifiers with one win, a draw and a loss from their last three games. Igor Stimac’s side managed a top-three finish in their group – securing them qualification into the third round of the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers. India were only one among eight nations representing the South Asian division in the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers.

Along with the Blue Tigers, a number of other teams also participated in them and came out with diverse results. So, let’s look at how the teams from South Asia fared in the World Cup Qualifiers Round 2.

Afghanistan

The Lions of Khorasan were actually placed in the same group as fellow South Asian countries Bangladesh and India. Despite being severe underdogs, they actually came out with a respectable finish. Afghanistan finished their group in fourth place – just one point behind India.

After an embarrassing start to the group with a 0-6 loss to Qatar, they stabilized themselves. A win over Bangladesh and draw against India meant Afghanistan held onto third place heading into the last three games. While they couldn’t hold onto it in the end, being unbeaten against India – a team 44 places above them in the FIFA Rankings – gave them a reason to be proud.

Bangladesh

bangladesh world cup qualifiers
Bangladesh will be happy with their draws against Afghanistan and India

The Bengal Tigers were unable to even slightly exceed expectations in Group E. Bangladesh ended the group in last place – with only two points from eight games. To their credit, they managed to get fighting draws against India and Afghanistan – both above them in the FIFA Rankings.

However, that was just about the bit of positivity from a dismal campaign. Bangladesh conceded 19 goals in the eight games – only scoring three. They were embarrassed by both Oman and Qatar – as well as losing their second game to India. For a country still trying to find their feet in international football, this ended up setting back their process even further.

Bhutan

Because of their low ranking, Bhutan had to play in the first round of the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers. They were paired against Guam in a two-legged playoff. The tie started in bright fashion for the Dragon Boys – as they won their home leg 1-0 after a hard-working effort.

However, reality struck back in the second one. Guam thrashed them 5-0 – eliminating the Dragon Boys from the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers.

India

AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers India
India did what was expected of them, but still did not enjoy a satisfactory campaign

Heading into the second round of the World Cup Qualifiers, the Blue Tigers were the highest-ranked South Asian team. They weren’t really given much luck in the draw – being paired against Asian champions Qatar and an impressive Oman side.

As many predicted, India finished their group with a third place finish. They only picked up seven points from eight games – including just one win and four draws. In the majority of the games, they were defensively really strong – conceding just seven goals. However, they scored only six themselves – which was the reason behind their disappointment.

In the end, India really under-performed in the second round. Despite a brilliant draw against Qatar early on – they couldn’t defeat Bangladesh or Afghanistan – both teams to whom they are superior too. Sunil Chhetri was their star man – scoring three of those six goals. In the end, a third place finish ensured India a direct spot in the third round of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers.

Maldives

Maldives were also placed in a really difficult group alongside Syria, China PR and the Philippines. Despite putting up some brave performances – they just weren’t able to pull off a fairy-tale story or defy the odds. The Red Snappers ended the group with a fourth place finish.

The only two wins from their eight games came against a lower-ranked Guam side. In the majority of the other games, Maldives suffered crushing losses. They conceded 20 goals – including 10 in two games against China. However, Maldives at least got a draw against Philippines in their final game to end the group with seven points.

Nepal

Unlike Kuwait – who pulled off an impressive finish in Group B – Nepal weren’t able to punch above their weight. Apart from the games against Chinese Taipai, the Gorkhalis weren’t able to produce a single positive result in their group.

Against the Chinese Taipai, they prevailed with two 2-0 wins. However, those were the only goals they scored in the entire group campaign. Nepal suffered a 0-7 loss to Kuwait – who were actually not higher than them in the FIFA Rankings. The Gorkhalis also suffered crushing losses to Australia and Jordan to finish their campaign in fourth place – enabling them to the Asian Cup Qualifying third round.

Pakistan

Similar to Bhutan, Pakistan also had to play the first round of the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers. They were paired to face Cambodia – a team around 20 places better off than them in the FIFA Rankings.

Pak Shaheen tried their best – but just weren’t able to overpower Cambodia. They suffered losses in both legs in the playoff clash – 0-2 in the first and then 1-2 in the other to get knocked out of the qualifiers early on.

Sri Lanka

The Sri Lankans did not score a single point in the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers

Sri Lanka found help from Lady Luck to even get the opportunity to move into the second round of the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers. They were paired to face Macau in the first round and lost the first leg of the two-legged playoff 1-0.

However, things took an ugly turn before the second leg could take place. Macau didn’t send their team to play the second leg in Sri Lanka due to the 2019 Sri Lanka Easter bombings. The Asian Football Federation (AFC) brought the case to FIFA – who after an investigation – gave a 3-0 forfeit win to Sri Lanka.

That was enough to help them make history and move into the second round. However, they were placed in an extremely difficult group against the likes of South Korea, Lebanon, Turkmenistan and North Korea. North Korea, however, withdrew from qualifying due to fear related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Instead, it became a four-team group. Sri Lanka, bore the brunt of that. In six games, they lost every single one and conceded 23 goals – finishing with 0 points and in fourth place. However, because of North Korea’s situation – they can now play in the third round qualifiers of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup – giving them some hope from a dismal campaign.

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