India have never eked out a point from any of the holding Asian Champions before Tuesday…
The 1950s and 60s are usually considered to be the “golden era” of Indian football. India defeated Iran in the final of the 1951 Asian Games and in 1962, they went on to win the trophy for a second time when they defeated South Korea 2-1 in Jakarta, Indonesia. Two years later, India went on to become the runners-up in the Asian Cup but in that edition of the tournament 11 of the 16 participating nations withdrew from the final competition.
Taking nothing away from the incredible performances of the Indian team managed by Syed Abdul Rahim, the draw against Qatar can be arguably regarded as India’s greatest achievement in its history.
Qatar are the current Asian champions and they are on a blistering run-of-form since the beginning of 2019. They have bulldozed every opponent they faced in the Asian Cup and their 3-1 win against heavyweights Japan established themselves as the number one in Asia. Throughout the tournament, they had scored 19 goals in just seven matches and their fort was breached only once.
In this summer the Maroons became only the second team from Asia to participate in Copa America after Japan (1999, 2019). In their campaign opener, they pulled off a stunning result when Felix Sanchez’s men came back from a 2–0 deficit against Paraguay to level it 2–2 at full time. It was also the first time that Qatar conceded two goals in a match since their Asian Cup win in January.
Although Qatar lost out narrowly to footballing giants like Colombia (1-0) and Argentina (2-0) respectively in their next two group stage matches they showed the world that they would be a force to reckon with in the 2022 World Cup. Recently, they thrashed Afghanistan 6-0 which once again showed that the gulf nation was once again firing on all cylinders and it would be a daunting task to stop them for any defence in the world, especially in their own backyard. The fact that India went into their den and yet managed to come out unscathed lends monumental significance to this result. In this century India’s marquee achievement was to win 1-0 against UAE in 2001, but the match was played in Bengaluru and the Blue Tigers had the advantage of playing in home conditions.
Moreover, Sanchez did not field a second-string lineup on Tuesday night as the big guns like Almoez Ali, Hassan Al Haydos, Yusuf Abdurisag had all started the match. Full credit to Igor Stimac’s tactical acumen and India’s resolute defending that they became the first Asian team to snatch a point from Qatar in 2019, the year that they have looked almost invincible.
This is definitely going to go down as a watershed moment in Indian football’s history. To draw with the Asian champions at their prime, in their own home is no mean feat and this can arguably be called India’s greatest result in the international arena.