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regular-article-logo Monday, 15 April 2024

2026 World Cup Qualifier: Qatar run India ragged as Stimac’s men fail to grab chances at home

The 3-0 result could have been more embarrassing had the 2019 Asian Cup champions converted all the chances they got in the first 45 minutes or if surprise inclusion Amrinder Singh not effected some fine saves under the bar. It could have been five or six more

Angshuman Roy Bhubaneswar Published 22.11.23, 11:36 AM
India goalkeeper Amrinder Singh (right) punches away a delivery in front of Qatar’s Almoez Ali (shirt No. 19) as Subhasish Bose (extreme left) and Rahul Bheke watch during the 2026 World Cup Group A Qualifier at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Tuesday.

India goalkeeper Amrinder Singh (right) punches away a delivery in front of Qatar’s Almoez Ali (shirt No. 19) as Subhasish Bose (extreme left) and Rahul Bheke watch during the 2026 World Cup Group A Qualifier at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Tuesday. Reuters

Arsene Wenger watched intently from the Box, the crowd kept egging the players on, and the drumbeats refused to stop. But in the end, the script did not change.

The 2026 World Cup Qualifier, as expected, was one-sided from the start and Qatar, much better technically and superior physically, toyed with India at the Kalinga Stadium here on a sultry Tuesday evening.

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The 3-0 result could have been more embarrassing had the 2019 Asian Cup champions converted all the chances they got in the first 45 minutes or if surprise inclusion Amrinder Singh not effected some fine saves under the bar. It could have been five or six more. Such was the onslaught that after 30 minutes Qatar had already earned eight corners!

Mustafa Meshaal got the first as early as in the fourth minute, Almoez Ali doubled the lead a minute after the change of ends and Yusuf Abdurisag got the third in the 86th.

India coach Igor Stimac rested five of the players from the Kuwait match. Apart from Amrinder coming in place of regular goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Subhasish Bose, who had lost his place to Akash Mishra as the left back, got a look in.

Perennial underperformer Udanta Singh also got a start. Lallianzuala Chhangte and Anirudh Thapa also returned to the playing XI.

This was the last competitive match for India before the AFC Asian Cup which starts on January 12. Stimac wanted to see how his players react when thrown into the cauldron. While Amrinder and Subhasish came out with impressive showings, Udanta hardly made an impact. And, at the post-match news conference, Stimac was candid. “He has to return to the club and work hard. Huge potential but needs to do more,” he said.

India did have situations when they could have scored. The scoreline was still 1-0, Anirudh Thapa got a clear look at the goal but shot wide. The equaliser could have made the game interesting.

Sahal Abdul Samad, who came in place of Thapa in the 63rd, latched onto a ball after a Qatari defender missed the flight. Inside the box, Sahal tried to finish at the far post when he could have played to either Naorem Mahesh Singh or Sunil Chhetri. These are the moments India need to grab against strong opponents like Qatar. Maybe they will soon.

Now about the goals. Mustafa Meshaal found himself inside the box and banged in the first following utter chaos in the Indian defence.

The second came a minute into the second half. Boualem Khouki dinked the ball inside the box and found Akam Afif. His shot was saved by Amrinder, but the keeper couldn’t hold the ball and Almoez Ali was at the right place.

Mohammed Waad Albayati sent in a cross from the left and Yousuf Abdurisag headed in. Three-nil and three points for the visitors.

India resume their campaign with two back-to-back matches against Afghanistan on March 21 and 26, 2024.

India and Kuwait, who defeated Afghanistan 4-0 in the other match of the group, have three points each.

India are now third on goal difference.

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