India to hold national camp in March; Likely to play two friendlies in preparation for the World Cup qualifiers |

Both the friendlies will be played in UAE…

The national camp of the Indian football team will be held in UAE (United Arab Emirates) in March, Goal can confirm. The Blue Tigers are also expected to play two friendlies during the camp in UAE.

The Indian Super League (ISL) final is scheduled for March 13, so the players will fly out to UAE immediately after the season finale. 

The camp and friendlies will be crucial for India coach Igor Stimac to assess his squad ahead of the upcoming World Cup qualifiers in June. It is learnt that Oman and another top team from the Middle-East are India’s likely opponents for the two friendlies which are expected to be scheduled for the last week of March. 

While Oman are confirmed as one of India’s opponents, final confirmation on the second opponent is yet to be received.

Oman will also be camping in Dubai from March 11 to 25 under their head coach Branko Ivankovic, who is also a Croatian. However, the Oman squad will assemble in Muscat on March 8 to regroup before travelling to UAE. The top-tier league will also remain suspended from March 6 to April 2 as the national team players will be busy in UAE. 

It must be noted that most of the remaining World Cup qualifiers in Asia have been postponed and is likely to be held at centralised venues in June. India’s group matches are set to be held in Qatar. All participating teams in India’s group have accepted the proposal of playing at a centralised venue.

Initially, AFC had chalked out a schedule to hold the remaining matches in October and November but they had to postpone due to the difficulties caused by the Coronavirus pandemic. Matches involving 40 teams in eight groups were set to be held in March and June but they will most likely be held in June at centralised venues. 

It will also mean that from September, the third round of World Cup qualifiers and the next round of Asian Cup qualifiers can be scheduled.  

India are currently placed fourth in Group E with three points from five matches. Qatar top the table with 13 points while Oman are hot on their heels with 12. India are virtually out of contention for the top two spots but a third-place finish is well within the reach of the Blue Tigers. That will book them a direct berth in the third round for the 2023 Asian Cup Qualifiers. 

India lost narrowly to Oman at home before holding Asian champions Qatar to a goalless draw. The inspiring result was followed by two more draws and a loss against Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Oman respectively. 

Eight group winners and four best runners-up will progress to the continent’s 12-team final qualifying stage for the 2022 World Cup. 

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