India, on Tuesday, held Nepal to a goalless draw in the match played in Dashrath Rangashala, Nepal, and progressed to the second round with an aggregate score of 2-0.
The Indian football team, the Men in Blue, had defeated Nepal two-nil at Guwahati, India, in the first leg, but could not get better of Nepal in the second. However, it ended the match on an even keel. The Indian goalkeeper, Subrata Paul, gave a brilliant performance, and was ably supported by the rightwing back. Several attacks of the Nepalese team were thwarted. The Indian striker, Ranbir Singh, once sent the ball into the net, but it was disallowed by the referee as he had handled the ball with his hand. The team could draw the match, and this performance is likely to help it gain places in the next month’s ranking.
Stephen Constantine, the English coach, starts his second stint with the Indian team on a happy note. However, he has to tread cautiously, as the team India has a long way to go. India is likely to face more formidable teams in the second and subsequent rounds. India and five other round one winners would lock horns with 34 highest ranked football teams of Asia in the second round. The 40 countries will be divided into eight groups each comprising 5 teams and they play each other in a double round robin format. The second round qualification matches are scheduled to be held between 11th June and 29th March in 2016. The group winners along with four highest placed runners-up (total 12 teams) would progress to the final round for qualifying to the 2018 World Cup and also 2019 Asian Cup.
As India enjoyed a 2-0 lead from its previous match, it tried to play safe, and hence, allowed the proceedings to slow down in this match against Nepal which it drew 0-0. Nepal dominated the proceedings for the most part, but failed to score. They earned a number of free kicks, but were all thwarted by Indian defenders.
Thus, India ended the match on a happy note.