Also known as The Blue Tigers, the Senior Men’s National Team is eligible to take part in the FIFA World Cup, AFC Asian Cup, SAFF Championships and various Invitational, International and Friendly matches involving National ‘A’ Teams.
The team’s first foray as an Independent Nation was in the first round of the 1948 Summer Olympics against France at the Cricketfield Stadium in London on July 31, 1948. Talimeren Ao captained the team with Balaidas Chatterjee as the coach-cum-manager. France overcame the stern Indian challenge 2-1.
India’s golden era was during the 1950s and early 1960s arguably, when under the coaching of Syed Abdul Rahim, the team won the Gold Medal in the inaugural Asian Games in Delhi in 1951, and repeated the feat in the 1962 Asian Games in Jakarta.
The Asian Games Gold in 1951 was India’s first-ever major trophy. Sahoo Mewalal scored the winner against Iran in the final. India followed that up with a fourth-place finish at the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne where Neville D'Souza scored a hat-trick against hosts Australia, thus becoming the first Asian to attain the feat at the Olympics.
The team went on to finish fourth at the 1958 Asian Games in Tokyo. But four years later, they went on to win a second Asian Games Gold in 1962. The team, led by Chuni Goswami, beat the Korea Republic 2–1 in front of a 100,000-odd partisan crowd at the Senayan Main Stadium in Jakarta. PK. Banerjee and Jarnail Singh scored within three minutes of each other to seal the victory for India.
Two years later, India participated in the 1964 AFC Asian Cup where they finished runners-up, losing out to the hosts, Israel, by two points. At the 1970 Asian Games, India came away with bronze as Amar Bahadur scored the winner to beat Japan 1–0.
The team began the 1990s by winning the inaugural SAFF Championship in 1993, a feat they repeated in 1997 and 1999.
In 2003, India participated in the Afro-Asian Games held in Hyderabad where they reached the final after defeating Zimbabwe 5-3, a team ranked 85 places above India in the FIFA rankings at that time. However, they went down 0-1 to Uzbekistan in the final.
In 2007, under the guidance of Bob Houghton, India won the Nehru Cup defeating Syria 1-0 in the final. The squad followed that up with an impressive performance at the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup, which was initially hosted in Hyderabad and saw the final shifted to Delhi.
India breezed through the group stage before defeating Myanmar in the semi-finals. Sunil Chhetri then lit up the final with a scintillating hat-trick to secure a 4-1 victory against Tajikistan.
Houghton’s team again lifted the Nehru Cup in 2009. In the 2012 edition of the Nehru Cup, India pipped Cameroon in the final under the guidance of Wim Koevermans.
Post 2015, the Blue Tigers remained unbeaten for 18 months from June 2016 to November 2017 in 12 International matches wherein a giant leap of faith propelled India from a FIFA Ranking of 173 (in 2015) to 96 (in July 2017) – their best ever since February 1996.
Since May 2019, the team has been coached by Croatian World Cupper Igor Stimac. Under the new head coach, the team held the Asian champions Qatar to a 0-0 draw in Doha in a FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifying match in September 2019, to produce one of the most stunning results in Indian football history.Read Less