Dushanbe (Tajikistan), November 13
Struggling to find consistency in a winless campaign so far, the Indian men’s football team needs nothing less than a win in its crunch World Cup qualifying round match against Afghanistan, to be played in freezing temperatures here tomorrow.
India began the second round of the qualifiers with a narrow 1-2 defeat to higher-ranked Oman before a memorable goal-less draw against Asian champions Qatar in Doha in September. The good show in the first two matches raised hopes of a possible third round berth but a 1-1 draw against eastern neighbours Bangladesh in Kolkata on October 15 came as a dampener. Had it not been for Adil Khan’s last-gasp header, Igor Stimac’s side would have utterly disappointed the capacity crowd at the Salt Lake Stadium.
The team is now at fourth place in the Group E table with two points from three matches. With even the runner-up in the five-team group not assured of a third-round slot, India cannot afford to lose against Afghanistan.
The Afghans, who are 149th in FIFA rankings against India’s 106th position, are placed third in the group with one win and two losses.
Stimac understands the situation his team is in. “It will not come to us, rather we need to go and snatch it. It’s always about us and our performance to achieve something,” Stimac said.
The war-ravaged Afghanistan chose Dushanbe as their home venue and the match will be played on artificial turf amid freezing temperatures. This has added to the woes of Stimac whose players are not used to these playing conditions. — PTI
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