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Qatar vs India: India’s journey in the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers second round so far

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After drawing Kuwait on Thursday, India will travel to World No.34 and AFC Asian Cup 2023 champion, Qatar, in its last second round of the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers on June 11 at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in Doha, Qatar.

MATCH PREVIEW | Qatar vs India: Last chance for India and Stimac in FIFA World Cup qualifier against under-strength Qatar

India is currently second in the standings and in its five matches, it has won five points, with a win and two draws.

India has only two scenarios left to ensure qualification: a win against Qatar or if both the remaining matches in Group A end as draws.

Here are all the matches India has played in this FIFA World Cup, Group A qualifiers:

Kuwait 0-1 India – November, 2023

India beat Kuwait 1-0 in its 2026 FIFA World Cup second-round qualifiers on November 16, 2023 at the Jaber Al-Ahmad International Stadium.

Manvir scored with a left-footed shot in the 75th minute as he connected with a Lallianzuala Chhangte cross to help India win the away game.

Kuwait ended the match with 10 men as its player Faisal Alharbi was sent off after picking his second yellow card in the third minute of the added time for a high boot challenge on Chhangte.

– Inputs from PTI

India 0-3 Qatar – November, 2023

On November 21, 2023 Qatar ended India’s 15-game unbeaten run at home with a 3-0 win in its 2026 FIFA World Cup second-round qualifiers.

Moustafa Tarek Mashal, Almoez Ali and Yusuf Abdurisag scored for Qatar in India’s first loss in the second round of qualifiers.

The visitor, starting on the offensive right from kick-off, had its first chance in the second minute when Amrinder’s miscued kick found Almoez on his left. The forward jinked into the Indian penalty box and crossed it for Akram Afif on his left, but the No.11’s shot went wide, to the relief of the home fans.

For Qatar, it was Moustafa, the 22-year-old attacking midfielder who scored the defining goal in the first half. At the half-hour mark, he came close to doubling the lead, but this time, Amrinder reigned supreme, pushing his header away.

Afghanistan 0-0 India – March, 2024

India and Afghanistan settled for a 0-0 draw after failing to turn their opportunities into goals in a Group A fixture of the 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers on March 22, 2023.

It was end-to-end stuff in the first half with India coming very close to scoring through Manvir Singh on two occasions and the hosts too had its share of chances.

However, most of them were half chances and goalkeepers of both teams were not tested enough.

With India and Afghanistan resorting to open football, the first-half (45+3) saw a wave of attacking moves but the strikers were not able to come alive in the final third, leaving both gaffers Igor Stimac and Ashley Westwood a bit frustrated as they shouted instructions from the touchline.

A chance went begging for India in the 58th minute after Akash Mishra on the left flank won the ball and crossed it to Vikram Partap Singh whose finishing left a lot to be desired.

Moments later, it was Afghanistan’s turn to miss out on a golden opportunity as Rahul Bheke foiled Rahmat Akbari and Omid Popalzay’s plan with a timely interception in front of goal.

One of the game’s best chances came India’s way but Subhasish Bose’s free header off a corner-kick missed the target.

– Inputs from PTI

India 1-2 Afghanistan – March, 2024

India lost to Afghanistan at home on March 26, 2024 at home in the second round of FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

What was a potential six-pointer for India finished with just one point in two games, including a 1-2 at home here at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium on Tuesday.

From a free-kick inside his box, quick passes from Anwar Ali and Lalengmawia Ralte, destabilised Afghanistan’s shape before Manvir played in a sumptuous cross into the box, which a flustered Amiri handled with a flailing arm. The referee awarded the penalty and Chhetri did the rest.

The goal allowed India to play a bit more freely in the second half but it couldn’t play the right cross or the final ball to trouble Afghanistan.

Then, Stimac took out Chhetri as part of his three changes and two minutes later, Afghanistan equalised. A long ball was flicked behind the Indian defence, which created all sorts of trouble. Despite a couple of blocks, the ball fell to Rahmat Akbari, whose shot from the edge of the box, trickled its way into the bottom corner in the 70th minute.

The momentum later shifted in favour of Afghanistan as India struggled to fashion a chance of its own. Gurpreet kept out a curling effort from distance by Jabar Sharza but the shot-stopper was culpable when he ran from his line and clattered into Siar Saadat to concede a penalty in the 87th minute. Sharif Mukhammad sent Gurpreet the wrong way to slot his penalty to the left to send the Afghan bench into raptures.

India 0-0 Kuwait – June, 2024

India squandered another great opportunity in its bid for the FIFA World Cup third-round qualification after a tame goalless draw against Kuwait at the Salt Lake Stadium on June 6, 2024.

Thousands had made their way towards the gates as early as 4.30 pm, eagerly anticipating an India victory and giving a fitting send-off to their legendary captain, Chhetri.

Kuwait could have easily gotten itself on the scoresheet in the fourth minute but for Gurpreet Singh Sandhu closing down Mohammad Daham to block his shot from close range. If not for Gurpreet’s saves, India’s morale would have taken a big beating.

Kuwait had superiority in midfield and possession. While the away side pressed forward and played the ball around the Indian half, the gap between India’s defenders and midfielders meant India struggled to move the ball forward.

The only time India looked threatening was when the defenders swiftly moved the ball down the flanks to find Lallianzuala Chhangte and Liston Colaco’s runs down the channel. First-time crosses from the flanks caused problems for the Kuwaiti defence with Hasan Alanezi and Khaled Ibrahim making vital interceptions.

Rahim Ali with a pass behind Kuwait’s defensive line. Rahim brought it down on his run but Sulaiman Abdulghaffor saved his low finish. Rahim moved up top, while Chhetri, who struggled to have any impact in the first half, dropped into the No. 10 role.

Just before that, Gurpreet made another big save, right after the re-start when a crossfield ball into the box found an unmarked Alharbi, whose volleyed effort needed a strong one-handed block from the shot-stopper.

Even the much-vaunted Kolkata crowd couldn’t do more to push this team forward. The cheers gave way to moans, before one last roar in the seven added minutes which, too, went without any real threat of a goal from either side.

The silence then gave way to appreciation for Chhetri, who, despite the undesirable result, walked around the famous grass, where he had started his professional career in 2002, to soak in the adulation for the last time in national colours.

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