The Women in Blue’s tournament was cut short following a COVID outbreak.

The year 2022 was a witness to Indian football’s landmark moment with the country hosting Asia’s festival of women’s football. The nation had all its bases covered, from infrastructure to logistics, to give the world a glimpse of the country’s renowned hospitality. Indian women’s team were also taking part at the AFC Asian Cup for the first time in 19 years.

However, the football gods had different plans. A massive COVID-19 outbreak in the Blue Tigresses’ camp brought an end to India’s aspirations to feature at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Years of hard work and sacrifices unfolded to no purpose. The Indian women’s team had a realistic chance to represent the nation at a World Cup, but things just didn’t go their way.

On that note, Khel Now takes a look at how India could’ve qualified for the FIFA Women’s World Cup and perhaps lost their best chace, if the outbreak hadn’t happen.

The initial arithmetic

India Vs Iran
India played a goalless draw against Iran (Courtesy: AFC Media)

Let us walk you through it. The Indian women’s team were placed in Group A along with Iran, Chinese Taipei and China PR. India faced their first test in the form of Iran. The Indians were the strong favourites, but all they could manage was a point against the debutants.

India could’ve qualified for WAC 2022 quarter-finals by finishing in the top two of their group. A third-place finish also offered them a chance to make the knockouts stage of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup and a shot at reaching the World Cup. Thomas Denenrby’s side were the team to beat in their next game against Chinese Taipei, especially given their recent run of form against the same opponent.

Had the hosts finished second, they would’ve faced the Philippines in the quarter-finals. Given India’s superiority on-paper, they would have expected to come out on top. A win against them would’ve taken them into the semi-finals, which would’ve meant direct qualification to the World Cup. This would’ve been the simplest way to achieve India’s goal, but life had other plans.

Alternate scenarios

Scenario 1:  Qualification as one of the two best third-placed teams

Just in case India didn’t finish in the top two of their group, they could’ve still qualified for the quarter-finals. Apart from the top two teams in each group, two out of three best third-placed teams also got a berth in the last eight.

If India would’ve qualified on the basis of their third-place finish, they’ve would have either faced eventual champions China PR or the then defending champions Japan in the quarter-finals.

The Indian women’s team have faced both China PR and Japan twice in their history. However, the Blue Tigresses have never managed to win against either of them. But, they’ve looked a completely different side in the past few years and could’ve caused an upset against either of them.

Scenario 2: Win quarter-final & get direct qualification

The second scenario is very simple. Win the quarter-final and book a semi-final spot. All the semi-finalists of the tournament got direct path to the 2023 FIFA World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

Scenario 3: What if they didn’t win the quarter-final?

Chinese Taipei
Chinese Taipei qualified for the knockouts potentially at India’s expense (Courtesy: AFC Media)

To give the readers a better understanding of this scenario, let us replace India with Chinese Taipei, who finished second in Group A and potentially took India’s place in almost all the stages of the tournament.

Chinese Taipei lost the quarter final against Philippines and entered the four-team (Vietnam, Australia and Thiland) play-off round. However, with Australia already qualifying for the WWC by virtue of being the hosts for the next’s FIFA women’s World Cup, the play-off round was a three-team affair. Chinese Taipei managed to finish second with a win against Thailand and a defeat to Vietnam.

Vietnam finished first in the playoffs, which means they’ll feature at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. As for Chinese Taipei and Thailand, they’ll play in the Inter-Confederation playoffs to decide their fate.

If India would’ve made it to the playoffs, they could’ve emerged victorious against Vietnam and Thailand and made it to the World Cup, as they had what it takes to be there!

For more football updates, follow Khel Now on Twitter, Instagram and join our community on Telegram.