Having failed to win any of their first four matches, nothing short of a victory will keep India’s hopes alive.
The Indian football team will travel to Muscat to take on Oman at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex on Tuesday in their fifth 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier match.
India are currently fourth in the Group E standings, with three draws and a loss in their four matches, and find themselves in a must-win situation if they are to salvage their hopes of qualifying for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
The two sides met in September in Guwahati, where India took the lead through captain Sunil Chhetri with an excellent set-piece routine and were the better side for the majority of the contest.
However, Oman substitute Al Mundhir Al Alawi came off the bench and scored twice in the final eight minutes of regulation time, stunning the home crowd into silence.
While India’s defence has performed decently so far in the qualifiers, the attack has been a huge concern for coach Igor Stimac and his side.
The Blues have scored just thrice in four matches, with none of them coming from open play, raising concerns about Stimac’s tactics.
Only seven out of the 40 participants in the FIFA World Cup Asian Qualifiers have fewer goals than India, with two of those being fellow Group E teams Bangladesh and Afghanistan. By comparison, group leaders Oman and Qatar have both hit double figures in their four matches. The onus will be on the Indian midfield and attack to create chances from open play and finish them against Oman and in the upcoming matches.
Since their morale-boosting performance against Qatar, India have played out two deflating draws against Bangladesh and Afghanistan — needing late goals in both matches to salvage a point — and now find themselves six points behind Oman, who are second in the Group E standings.
India is one of only eight teams without a win so far in the AFC World Cup qualifying stage, and with just four games left, the Blues have no room for error. A defeat in Muscat will all but end India’s hopes of qualifying for football’s showpiece event. Even a victory may prove futile in the long run but will nevertheless keep their hopes alive mathematically.
Where to watch?
The Oman vs India 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier match is scheduled for Tuesday, October 19, 2019, at 8:30 PM IST. It will be broadcast live on the Star Sports network and Hotstar.