Alberto Colaco, general secretary of South Asian Football Federation (SAFF), opines that India needs to be move up in the continental rankings if they have any hopes of making the cut for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
India are presently ranked 31 in Asia and are 168th in the world. With India’s technical director Rob Baan envisioning India to qualify for the footballing extravaganza in 2022 and AIFF’ s commercial partners, IMG-Reliance hoping for the country to qualify for the 2026 World Cup, the sorry state of affairs need to change drastically for starters.
“If the aim is to be to qualify for the 2022 World Cup, India should try to be in top 12 in Asia. If you are in top 12, you will play only one or two big teams in your group in the qualifiers,” he pointed.
He mentioned that for India to improve their FIFA rankings, they would need to play regularly on FIFA days and against opposition whom they have a realistic chance of competing with.
“It's difficult to arrange international matches. You need to have the budget because you won't get (it) from TV rights. You need to spend Rs 20-25 lakhs to host an international friendly. Some teams would also demand appearance fee from 50,000 to USD 200,000."
"I would suggest that India can play against South Asian countries and gain points by beating them. Financial spending also won't be that much," he mentioned.
While several Indians brag about the 1-0 victory over Qatar India enjoyed last year in a practice game and the same for the Nehru Cup triumph over Cameroon last month, it didn’t make any difference to their tally of points which determine the rankings.
“You also have to ensure that the international matches are counted for FIFA rankings. Nehru Cup was not counted for rankings though India won it because Cameroon did not send their first team. Had it been counted, India would have risen eight to 10 places. India beat Qatar some time back but they (Qatar) fielded almost two different elevens in the two halves and so it was also not counted,” said the former general secretary of the Goa Football Association (GFA).
While Baan believes that the FIFA rankings provide an understanding over the state of football in the country, Colaco had a different opinion as he shared a few exceptions to the rule.
"Ranking gives a fair idea of the strength of a national team though sometimes it appears lopsided. Countries like Afghanistan, Nepal and Maldives are above India but India have beaten them in the last three-four years on many occasions,” he explained.
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