India missed out on an opportunity to play in the 2021 Copa America because dates clashed with their World Cup qualifiers against Bangladesh and Afghanistan in June. However, with the CONMEBOL showing interest in inviting India, the Blue Tigers might get a chance in the 2024 edition.
The 2020 Copa America, which was supposed to be held in Argentina and Colombia, got pushed back by a year owing to the Covid-19 pandemic. Initially, Asian Champions Qatar and Australia were invited by the CONMEBOL (South American Football Confederation) as the 11th and 12th team in the tournament.
With both the Asian countries pulling out, the organisers actually had a word with India as a possible replacement and CONMEBOL was excited to have the Blue Tigers in South America. But, things did not fall in place as India could not confirm their availability for the tournament owing to a possible clash of dates with their 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers. The 2021 Copa America is all set to kick-off on June 11.
“There were two Asian teams, Qatar and Australia, invited for Copa America. Australia couldn’t make it due to various commitments. They actually then spoke to India and to CONMEBOL (South American Football Confederation), who were excited to get India. They were very interested in having us play,” said AIFF general secretary Kushal Das to TOI.
In fact, AIFF were trying to get the World Cup Qualifiers done by April-May, but countries like Bangladesh and Afghanistan had problems regarding the same, with the matches now scheduled for June. But, Kushal Das is not losing hope and feels that they can make it happen in the future.
“There were scheduling issues. The Copa America is in June and we were trying to see if the qualifiers could be played earlier in March/April. But it didn’t work out for some of the countries (in the group) like Bangladesh and Afghanistan.