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Will we ever see China or India lifting the World Cup?

China and India may be heading up the global economic league but they won't be making it to the soccer World Cup finals in the next two decades, according to a note by Goldman Sachs.

China, the world's second-largest economy, is no minnow in the sporting world, after it topped the medals table at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and came second in London in 2012. India, which is ranked by the World Bank as the third largest economy, shows its prowess on the cricket pitch, winning the sport's World Cup in 2011 and dominating ever since.

But these sporting successes have not been translated into the world's most popular sport: Soccer. China qualified once for the World Cup in 2002 and lost all their games, while India made it through the 1950 qualifying rounds but withdrew because of money and team issues.

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China's Olympic obsession

China does have its avid soccer followers, particularly for teams such as Manchester United, which have around 108 million fans based in China, according to the website Sporting Intelligence. But the number of registered players is around half that of the Netherlands, Goldman Sachs said in its "World Cup and Economics 2014" note on Wednesday.

Goldman Sachs

China's soccer world has been hit with problems: Players, officials and referees have been slapped with fines and jailed over match-fixing, while poor infrastructure, a slowing economy and continued focus on Olympic sports has held back soccer's development.

"Competitive sports in China are dominated by the state, whose priority has been to maximise the country's medal count, especially in the Olympics," Goldman Sachs said in a note.

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"Winning a large number of medals has proved very popular, and it is more efficient to invest in a large number of relatively minor sports than in football. A limited number of medals are on offer in football, and it is also much more difficult to be dominant in the sport."

But the tide could be turning. China has made a big push to raise the profile of the sport in recent times, by attracting big names such as former Chelsea star Didier Drogba who signed for soccer club Shanghai Shenhua in 2012. China's president Xi Jinping is also known to be a soccer fan.

Nonetheless, Goldman are bearish on the timeline suggesting the country will need "a couple more generations" to become a first-tier soccer nation with a chance of winning the World Cup.

"What China needs are grassroots changes, a long-term plan and you just don't see that because it is all done on a short-term basis," Mark Dreyer, founder of China Sports Insider told CNBC in a phone interview.

India: 'Long way to go'

India is "still playing in the backyard", Goldman said. The country is currently ranked 147 out of 207 on soccer world governing body FIFA's official rankings.

Zhong Zhi | Getty Images

Despite 30 percent of India's 1.2 billion population aged between 10 and 24, according to Goldman, the country has been unable to produced 11 world class players.

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Poor infrastructure, "indifference" towards the game, and the country's obsession with cricket are reasons soccer has been held back in India.

"In sum, Indian football still has a long way to go to mark its presence on the world stage. This requires support from the government, the media, business and, most importantly, the general public," Goldman said in a note.

"We think that even a 20-year horizon is probably too short for India to make it into a World Cup final."

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