Qualification history
India were set to participate at Brazil 1950 but withdrew because they were not permitted to play barefoot. Despite a strong continental record in the 1950s and 1960s, the world’s second most populous nation didn’t play its first FIFA World Cup™ qualifier until 1985. The South Asians have suffered early exits in their attempts to qualify for South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014, losing to Lebanon and United Arab Emirates respectively in the opening round.

The team
The Gorkhalis have been through a relatively lean period in recent years since winning the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup, and thus qualifying for the 2011 AFC Asian Cup. Striker and one-time MLS player Sunil Chhetri will again lead a youthful looking forward line during Russia 2018 qualifiers. After a hard-fought first-round win over neighbours Nepal in March 2015, India will be looking to finally make an impact in World Cup qualifying.

The coach
Stephen Constantine returned as coach early in 2015 hoping to reprise a successful four-year stretch with India from a decade earlier. The Englishman has enjoyed a colourful coaching career that has includes stints in England and Cyprus, as well as taking charge of Nepal, Malawi, Sudan and Rwanda.

The stat
– India are yet to feature in any stand-alone FIFA tournament, though they competed in the 1956 Olympic Games Football Tournament.

The former stars
Sailen Manna, Neville D'Souza, PK Banerjee, Baichung Bhutia