Four years to Qatar 2022 WC: Herculean task for India to make the cut

The 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar will witness the quadrennial football tournament played in the Middle-East for the first time. Sportstar also looks into India's odds at qualifying for the event.

Khalifa International Stadium is the first of the eight World Cup venues to finish completion.   -  GETTY IMAGES

The 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar will witness the quadrennial football tournament played in Asia for only the second time, and for the first in the Middle-East. The Arab nation won the rights to host the tournament in 2010 ahead of Australia, South Korea, Japan and the United States amid allegations of corruption in the voting process.

The Saudi Arabia-led blockade of Qatar in 2017 along with neighbouring Asian and African countries has also cast a shadow over the organisation of the tournament.

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Qatar will be the smallest country by area (11,571 km²) to host the World Cup, making it easier for the fans to get around the host cities, with the longest distance between stadiums being 55 km.

The next World Cup, however, will be the played for the first time in the winter, not summer, between November and December to help footballers escape the sweltering conditions. The construction of eight stadiums, which will have inbuilt cooling systems, and the training sites is expected to be completed by 2020 within the estimated budget of $6.5 billion.

India's chances

However, a first-ever World Cup qualification for India, which is ranked 97 in the FIFA rankings, appears to be a distant dream. India, an AFC member, will have to fight it out with 47 other nations for 4.5 qualifying places in its confederation.

India will have its task cut out if it manages to get past the second round of qualifying to which it has a direct entry due to its superior AFC ranking of 14. The third round of qualifying will most likely include the Asian powerhouses Australia, South Korea, Japan, Iran, the UAE and China PR to get past for the four direct entry places.

If India fails in the direct qualification process, it can still book its place in the World Cup by qualifying for the inter-confederation playoff. The third placed team in the two third round groups will fight it out in a two-legged tie for the AFC spot in the inter-confederation playoffs.

India's only participation in the FIFA tournament came when it hosted the 2017 U-17 World Cup. (PTI)   -  PTI

 

In the 2018 qualifiers, Australia beat Syria in the fourth round playoff before getting the better of Honduras from the CONCACAF confederation to qualify for the finals in Russia.

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However, India's chances could double exponentially if the 2022 World Cup is expanded to 48 nations. While it is already made known that the 2026 event will be a 48 teams, FIFA president Gianni Infantino has floated the idea of a possible expansion in Qatar. In such a scenario, the AFC region will have eight qualifying spots.

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