MY KOLKATA EDUGRAPH
ADVERTISEMENT
regular-article-logo Friday, 24 May 2024

2026 Fifa World Cup Qualifiers: Lower-ranked Afghanistan hold India

It was end-to-end contest in the first half on Thursday night with 117th-ranked India coming close to scoring through Manvir Singh on two occasions and the hosts too had their share of chances

Our Bureau, PTI Abha Published 23.03.24, 10:41 AM
India’s Akash Mishra (right) tries to go past Mahboob Hanifi of Afghanistan during the World Cup Qualifier at Abha in Saudi Arabia on Thursday.

India’s Akash Mishra (right) tries to go past Mahboob Hanifi of Afghanistan during the World Cup Qualifier at Abha in Saudi Arabia on Thursday. AIFF

India played out a goalless draw against lower-ranked Afghanistan after both sides failed to turn their opportunities into goals in a Group A fixture of the 2026 Fifa World Cup Qualifiers here.

It was end-to-end contest in the first half on Thursday night with 117th-ranked India coming close to scoring through Manvir Singh on two occasions and the hosts too had their share of chances.

ADVERTISEMENT

With this result, India climbed to the second spot in Group A with four points from three matches, followed by Kuwait, who are on three points from as many games. The equation was quite clear for both teams. A win would do either side a world of good.

India have provisionally taken the second spot in Group A, three points ahead of Kuwait, who lost to Qatar 0-3 earlier in the night. Afghanistan, ranked 158 in the world, following a draw and two losses are fourth in the group.

Sunil Chhetri and his team have not scored for five consecutive matches, the World Cup Qualifier against Qatar in Bhubaneswar on November 21, followed by three games in the AFC Asian Cup in Qatar in January and Thursday’s match versus Afghanistan.

The last time India scored was against Kuwait on November 16. Manvir Singh’s strike had made the difference.

On Thursday, lunging tackles came thick and fast at the Damac Stadium. While Afghanistan looked to use their pace and physical built to assert dominance, India were intent on playing a passing game.

Vikram Partap Singh, earning his maiden start, was a constant thorn in the flesh of the Afghanistan defence.

The forward kept drifting between the centre and the wing, often switching with Manvir, which caused much confusion in the Afghanistan ranks. 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 coaches Igor Stimac and Ashley Westwood a bit frustrated as they shouted instructions from the touchline.

India were on the offensive from the word go and caused some anxious moments in the Afghanistan defence. Had Manvir not spurned a great chance in the 17th minute, the visitors would have taken an early lead in their away leg of the second round of the 2026 World Cup and 2027 AFC Asian Cup preliminary joint qualification match.

After a few early exchanges, India slowly began to clamp their control. Lallianzuala Chhangte, prancing down the left, found an unmarked Manvir with a low cross. But the latter’s shot was wide.

Despite India’s control over the game, Afghanistan kept finding chances. Mosawer Ahadi was released down the right.

He unleashed a left-footed curler but it hardly troubled goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu.

Follow us on:
ADVERTISEMENT