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High stakes in Doha: Indian men's football team faces Qatar in decisive game

With the future of Indian football on the line, the Blue Tigers will need every ounce of determination and skill to overcome Qatar and keep their dreams alive.

High stakes in Doha: Indian mens football team faces Qatar in decisive game

Indian football team in training


The Bridge Desk

Updated: 10 Jun 2024 2:37 PM GMT

As India prepares to face Qatar in their final Group A match on June 11, the stakes could not be higher. The Blue Tigers are eyeing a spot in the third round of the FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup 2027 Preliminary Joint Qualification, with the added incentive of a direct berth at the Asian Cup. A win against the formidable Qatar side would seal their qualification, thanks to a superior goal difference over Afghanistan. However, even a draw could suffice if the match between Kuwait and Afghanistan, which kicks off two hours later in Kuwait City, also ends in a draw.

India's path to this critical juncture has been challenging. Their recent 0-0 draw against Kuwait in Kolkata marked their fourth consecutive winless game in the qualifiers, a result that put their progression hopes in jeopardy. Head coach Igor Stimac expressed his disappointment, noting the team's struggles with passing speed and quality delivery in attack. Despite the even statistics, goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was a standout performer, making crucial saves to keep India's hopes alive.

The upcoming match against Qatar is not just a test of skill but also of resilience. With Sunil Chhetri playing his last game for India, the team now faces the daunting task of moving forward without their legendary striker. Rahim Ali's struggles in the previous match highlight the ongoing search for a successor, with Manvir Singh, Vikram Partap Singh, and David Lalhlansanga yet to make a significant impact upfront.

Defensively, Anwar Ali, Mehtab Singh, Nikhil Poojary, and Rahul Bheke will need to be at their best to counter Qatar's potent attack. In midfield, creativity and intelligent movement from Sahal Abdul Samad, Anirudh Thapa, Brandon Fernandes, Liston Colaco, and Lallianzuala Chhangte will be crucial.

Qatar, already through to the third round, will not be an easy opponent. Known for their disciplined and skillful play, the Asian champions boast a strong lineup that can exploit any weaknesses in the Indian defense. With nothing to lose, Qatar will likely play with freedom and fluidity, making it even more imperative for India to stay vigilant and organized.

Despite the challenges, Stimac remains optimistic. "We need to create an environment of belief," he said. "It's a very different challenge against the Asian champions, but we need to believe and give it our best shot to try to win the game."

Gurpreet Singh Sandhu echoed this sentiment, emphasizing the team's readiness to fight for all three points. "We'll prepare for it like any other game," he said. "We need to cope with Sunil bhai's absence and prepare in the best possible manner. We'll go to Qatar to get all three points.

The match kicks off at 9:15 PM IST, and with the future of Indian football on the line, the Blue Tigers will need every ounce of determination and skill to overcome Qatar and keep their dreams alive.

Where to watch

Indian football fans can watch the game live on Fancode.

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