Guwahati: If everything goes well, Guwahati in Assam may get to hold the first match of the football World Cup qualifiers at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Sarusajai on the outskirts of the city on September 5 this year.
As per sources from the All India Football Federation (AIFF), the Indian football team is likely to open their second round of the Asian qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup campaign against Oman in Guwahati.
The decision was taken keeping in view that most of the Indian Super League matches were being played at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium right from its starting seasons. Moreover, the infrastructure and facilities in the stadium have been drastically improved by the authorities concerned over the years, making it fit to hold any kind of international games. The much-praised Northeast United Football Club also considers the stadium to be their home.
Members from the Assam Football Association are getting in touch with AIFF officials requesting them for an opportunity to hold one of the World Cup qualifying matches. The state football association also received a “positive” feedback from the apex body but it will arrive at a final decision only after officials from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) inspect the venues, including the one in Guwahati.
Incidentally, Guwahati successfully hosted the FIFA U-17 World Cup matches in 2017.
The Indian football team has been clubbed in Group E alongside Bangladesh, Oman, Afghanistan and hosts Qatar. According to the schedule, the Blue Tigers coached by Croatian Igor Stimac are slated to take on Oman in their first game at home. The team will also take on Bangladesh at home, the venue for which is likely to be Kolkata”s Vivekananda Yuba Bharari Krirangan stadium as Guwahati hosting the neighbours could lead to unwanted tension after the episode in regards to Assam’s National Register of Citizens process which aims at identifying undocumented migrants.
The other venue to host home matches for the second round of the Asian qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup is Mumbai’s Football Arena which is home to Mumbai City FC and also hosted the inaugural Intercontinental Cup last year.
The 34 top-ranked Asian sides as per the FIFA world rankings for June are joined in the second round by the six winners (Bangladesh, Cambodia, Guam, Malaysia, Mongolia and Sri Lanka) of the Round 1 ties.
The competing nations were drawn into eight groups of five teams, with a side from each of the below pots (also determined by June’s FIFA rankings) making up the five-team pools.
The matches in the second round will be played from September 5 to June 9 next year. The group winners and four best runners-up (12 teams in total) will advance to the third round of Asian World Cup qualifiers.
The group stage will be played in a double round-robin format where all teams will face each other twice in home and away conditions.