Where they stand: India priorities downgraded to Asian Cup qualification
India's 0-1 defeat to Oman has virtually ruled them out of contention for further progress in their 2022 World Cup qualifiers, but the hopes of Asian Cup 2023 qualification will stay alive all through their remaining three games.
How are India placed after the latest result, and what will they need to do to ensure automatic progress to the Asian Cup qualifiers? Here's all that you need to know.
Which teams go through for World Cup qualification's next round?
There are eight groups and just 12 places on offer for the next round of World Cup qualification. This means all eight group winners, and the four best runners-up will book their berth in the 2022 World Cup's next qualification round. These 12 teams will also book an automatic berth at the 2023 AFC Asian Cup in China.
Qatar, being the hosts of the 2022 World Cup, will make it possible for a fifth runner-up to come into the 2022 World Cup qualification third round, should they either top their group, or finish among the top four runners-up. All other teams will have a shot at AFC Asian Cup qualification too, but only the third-placed teams will get a direct entry into the qualifiers.
The fifth-placed teams, and the four lowest fourth-placed sides, will all have to participate in playoffs before entering automatic Asian Cup qualification. These matches will see the winners going through to the main round of Asian Cup qualification -- thus making the playoff a lottery of sorts.
How are India placed after tonight?
India have three points from five games, and are fourth in their group. Qatar lead with 13 points, Oman are second with 12, while Afghanistan (four) and Bangladesh (one) are placed either side of India on the points table.
While Qatar are out of India's reach, they could still mathematically pip Oman to second place, but only if they win all of their remaining three games, and Oman lose all of theirs.
A more realistic scenario is India battling it out with Afghanistan and Bangladesh for third place, which would see the end of further World Cup qualification, but at least assure them of a straight shot at Asian Cup qualification.
What are India's remaining matches?
World Cup qualification for Asia restarts on March 26 next year, and India host Qatar on that day. Then, they have an away match against Bangladesh and a home match against Afghanistan, both in June, to round off their eight games.
Any two positive results there, and they would have a very good chance of finishing third, especially as Bangladesh and Afghanistan also have one match against each other pending.
However, if India do fail to pick up any wins in those games, even a single victory for Afghanistan or Bangladesh would mean India's best possible finish would be fourth, and their points would probably not be good enough to make the Asian Cup qualification without a playoff.
By most calculations, India simply have to start winning to keep their hopes of a successive Asian Cup finals appearance alive.