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Posted at: Sep 13, 2017, 2:35 AM; last updated: Sep 13, 2017, 2:35 AM (IST)

Fear of losing? AIFF cancels friendly against Palestine

Sabi Hussain

Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, september 12

Has the fear of losing gripped the All India Football Federation (AIFF)?

In an interesting development, AIFF has cancelled India’s friendly against Palestine on October 2 to protect the team’s standing in the FIFA and Asian rankings chart. This has been done to attract lower-ranked teams in India’s group when the draw for the 2019 Asian Cup would be held by the Asian Football Confederation.

India are currently ranked 97th in the FIFA rankings chart and 12th in Asian rankings chart. On the other hand, Palestine are placed 93rd in the FIFA list and a rung below India at 11th position in Asia.

According to AIFF sources, a loss to Palestine would not only result in a drop in India’s FIFA and Asia rankings, it would have also hurt the team’s chances at the Asian Cup draw.

AIFF has been guarding India’s 12th place in Asia apart from looking for ways to further improve their ranking so as to avoid getting clubbed with powerhouses like South Korea and Japan, among others, in the group for the Asian Cup.

It does not matter to AIFF that it comes at the cost of cancelling a friendly against an equally strong opponent like Palestine.

“If you fall below the 12th position, chances are you might draw stronger teams, which AIFF does not wants at this stage. It is in the best interest of AIFF to stay somewhere near the 12th position,” a source informed. “Overall, in a broader sense, it is always encouraging to remain among the top-16 teams in Asia. That way, you draw lower-ranked teams in groups for tournaments like the pre-Olympics, pre-World Cup, Asian Games or the Asian Cup,” the source added.

For the record, India are within a touching distance of qualifying for the Asian Cup, with nine points from three matches. There’s still battle going on for the 11th and 12th position in Asia between India, Palestine, North Korea and Jordan.

“So, it is prudent not to fall below the 12th position. By cancelling the Palestine friendly, AIFF has smartly managed to avoid the national team from a tough situation,” the source said.

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