Could we ever see India in the FIFA World Cup?

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The FIFA World Cup is getting closer by the minute with the 2022 tournament scheduled to kick off in November. This is a departure from tradition since it’s been moved from its usual June slot so that players can compete in safer temperatures. Everything else is business as usual though, from the number of teams competing to the fact that the whole world will be watching. Likewise, bookmakers like Bet365 will also be doing their thing, covering the tournament with odds on every game and running free bet offers in the lead-up to and during the event. 

Another thing that isn’t changing about this year’s World Cup is the notable absence of India. 

As of yet, the world’s second most populous country hasn’t managed to put together a team to represent it at the planet’s largest and most-prestigious footballing competition. 

Could that change though? After all, it’s not as if India hasn’t enjoyed international success in the beautiful game.

Promoting Football in India

Of course, we all know that cricket is the biggest sport in India, by quite a large margin. That means the largest amount of resources are directed towards it, with football and other competitions left to scrap for the rest. 

But this doesn’t mean football has nothing to work with in India, but to make it into the World Cup, more funding could help. 

Growing the interest in the sport would also help to encourage more people to get involved, helping the AIFF to find more top talent to field in its national squad. 

Expanding Tournament Could Help

In a tournament where only 32 teams from the entire world can qualify, India will always struggle to rank high enough to get a place because there are so many strong regional rivals. This is why we regularly see South Korea, Japan, China, and Iran competing in the tournament. 

But from 2026, the World Cup will be expanding to allow a total of 48 teams. This means the AFC will have 8.3 spots instead of 4.5, effectively doubling the chances India has to make it to the finals. 

Talent Rising Through the Ranks

That 2026 tournament would coincide with the beginning of senior careers for many up-and-coming Indian players. The youth teams have enjoyed success at the continental level in recent years, beating their peers who will also be part of their respective senior teams. 

This will be hampered by a lack of a football pyramid in India, making it harder for younger players to progress through the ranks domestically. But it won’t be impossible, especially since players can still develop abroad and compete for India. 

So maybe, just maybe, 2026 will be India’s year.

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