Article last updated on June 14, 2021.

The Indian football team have resumed their FIFA World Cup Qualifiers campaign in Qatar. So far, the Blue Tigers have played seven games in Group E of the qualifiers, including the matches against Qatar and Bangladesh this month.

In the seven matches, the Indian football team only managed to pick up three draws and a win. They are currently occupying third place in the group, nine points behind second-placed Oman. While qualification into the next round of the World Cup Qualifiers now seems a near-impossible task, India could remain in third place and qualify directly for the next round of the AFC Asian Cup 2023 Qualifiers.

Getting to that stage can exponentially increase the chances of Igor Stimac’s side qualifying for the tournament. However, to manage a third-place finish, the team must get positive results in their remaining game against Afghanistan. Let’s take a look.

India’s pathway

The Indian football team lost to Qatar on June 3, before winning against Bangladesh on June 7. They will play the final game their campaign against Afghanistan on June 15. For Stimac’s side – the formula is pretty simple. Just win as many points as possible.

The win against Bangladesh is a big boost to the Blue Tigers. It has helped them boost their goal-difference and gain momentum before the Afghanistan clash. That said, the contest against Afghanistan could be the decider. The gap between the two sides is still slim as Afghanistan are at fourth place with five points.

A draw probably would be enough for India. However, the Blue Tigers can’t hold out hope for that. They’ll have to produce a gritty performance to keep the Lions of Khorasan quiet and defeat them in Qatar.

What if India doesn’t finish third?

There is indeed a chance where the Indian football team fail to finish third in the group. In such a scenario, the rules state that the top four fourth-placed teams will advance to the AFC Asian Cup qualification third round, while the bottom four fourth-placed teams will advance to the AFC Asian Cup qualification playoff round.

Afghanistan’s pathway

The Lions of Khorasan had a couple of friendly games to prepare for the FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifiers. They faced Indonesia and Singapore towards the end of May, before playing against Oman and Bangladesh in the qualifiers.

Bangladesh held Afghanistan to a draw, while Oman beat them in the following game. They now need a win against India to finish at third place in Group E, as the Blue Tigers currently lead them by one point.

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