The Blue Tigers played their very first World Cup qualifier in 1985 …

India first had a chance to qualify for the World Cup in 1985 when it entered the group stage of the 1986 World Cup qualifying rounds.

Their very first World Cup qualifier was against Indonesia in Jakarta, which they lost 2-1. Krishanu Dey was the Blue Tigers’ sole goalscorer.

At the 1950 World Cup in Brazil, India had a chance to make it to the finals after three teams from their group in the qualifying phase, Burma (now Myanmar), the Philippines and Indonesia decided to withdraw from the competition. With that the World Cup place for the Blue Tigers came on the plate.

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Unfortunately, India has also decided to withdraw from the competition for several reasons. Indian players back then did not wear shoes and preferred to play barefoot, which would not have been approved by FIFA. Another reason was that the players were used to playing 70 minute games in national football, so a 90 minute game at the highest level could have resulted in an embarrassing result.

The third reason cited by several historians (including Novy Kapadia in his book “The Football Fanatic’s Essential Guide: 2018 World Cup Special”) is that the Indian government, as a newly independent nation, was unable to cover the cost of the team’s travel to Brazil – a journey that took almost a month by ship at the time. That is why they preferred to attend the Olympic Games, which were considered more prestigious at the time.

India’s decision to withdraw from the tournament in 1950 appears to have been ticked off by FIFA, which banned India from participating in the qualifiers for the next edition of the tournament in 1954. For the next seven editions of the World Cup, India did not participate in the qualifiers.

World Cup qualification in India

After participating in the 1986 qualification, the Blue Tigers withdrew again from the 1990 World Cup qualification before they were used again in the 1994 qualifying round.

Of the nine editions the team has played (48 games), India has only won nine games so far. Their most successful campaign was qualifying in 2002. India started their campaign with a 1-0 win over a much stronger team from the UAE in Bengaluru. In six games India had managed to collect eleven points with three wins, two draws and only one win. Their biggest qualifying victory to date was also achieved in this edition when they defeated Brunei 5-0.

In the current World Cup qualification in 2022, India has not won a single game after five games.

Games India won in World Cup qualifiers




Indian goal scorers

Conference location

March 30, 1985 1986 World Cup qualification Bangladesh 1-2 India Shishir Ghosh, Bikash Panji Bangladesh Army Stadium, Dhaka
April 12, 1985 1986 World Cup qualification India 2-1 Bangladesh Bikash Panji, Camilo Gonsalves Salt Lake Stadium, Calcutta
June 13, 1993 World Cup qualification 1994 Hong Kong 1-3 India IM Vijayan (2), Bhupinder Thakur Olympic Stadium, Seoul
September 21, 1996 World Cup qualification 1998 India 2-0 Philippines IM Vijayan, Bruno Coutinho Khalifa International Stadium, Doha
April 8, 2001 World Cup qualification 2002 India 1-0 United Arab Emirates Jules Alberto Sree Kanteerava Stadium, Bengaluru
May 11, 2001 World Cup qualification 2002 Brunei 0-1 India Jo Paul Ancheri Sultan Hassal Bolkiah Stadium, Bandar Seri Begawan
May 20, 2001 World Cup qualification 2002 India 5-0 Brunei Jules Alberto, IM Vijayan, Bhaichung Bhutia, Ancheri, Hakim Sree Kanteerava Stadium, Bengaluru
March 12, 2015 World Cup qualification 2018 India 2-0 Nepal Sunil-Chhetri (2) Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium, Guwahati
November 12, 2015 World Cup qualification 2018 India – Guam. 1-0 Robin Singh Sree Kanteerava Stadium, Bengaluru

How will India perform in World Cup qualifiers 2022?

India began their World Cup qualification with a narrow 2-1 home defeat to Oman, followed by a historic goalless draw against Asian champions Qatar in Doha. In their third and fourth games, the Blue Tigers drew 1-1 against both Bangladesh and Afghanistan and then lost 1-0 away to Oman.

They resume their campaign against Qatar on June 3rd, followed by Bangladesh and Afghanistan on June 7th and 15th respectively. All the Indian group games are hosted by Qatar.

Igor Stimac, India Practice

Current group status

Teams matches W. D. L. PTS
Qatar 6th 5 1 0 16
Oman 5 4th 0 1 12th
Afghanistan 5 1 1 3 4th
India 5 0 3 2 3
Bangladesh 5 0 1 4th 1

What if India finishes fourth or fifth?

If India finishes fourth, they can also qualify for the Asian Cup third qualifying round if they finish in the top four fourth-placed teams in all groups. The remaining four fourth placed move into the play-off round of the Asian Cup.

If India is fifth in the table, they will have to go to the Asian Cup qualifying play-offs.