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Feeling the heat in Doha

An acid test for Chhetri-less India as they face Qatar

Feeling the heat in Doha

India must win to ensure a safe passage to the third round of the World Cup qualifiers. aiff



PTI

Doha, June 10

The influential Sunil Chhetri’s absence will be a difficult void to fill as the Indian football team enters a testing transition phase with a crucial FIFA World Cup qualifying match against heavyweights Qatar here tomorrow.

We are not thinking about it (Chhetri's absence). We’ve played several games over the last five years without him, and we have shown that we can play in a composed manner. Igor Stimac, India coach

The 39-year-old Chhetri called time on his glorious international career by playing in last week’s fixture against Kuwait in Kolkata, which ended in a goalless draw as the team failed to give him a fitting farewell.

India will be led by their 32-year-old goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, who has so far appeared in 72 internationals and is the most experienced player in the 23-member squad after Chhetri’s retirement.

An acid test awaits them as they run into the two-time Asian champions at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium, knowing well that a defeat will end their campaign and dash hopes of securing a maiden entry into the third round of the World Cup qualifiers.

India remain in the second spot with five points and a goal difference of -3. Afghanistan, who also played out a 0-0 draw with Qatar in their last outing in Hofuf, Saudi Arabia, are in third spot with a goal difference of -10, the stalemate making the job much more difficult for Igor Stimac’s wards.

Qatar, who have already qualified for the third round as group-toppers, have named a largely youthful squad, with 21 out of their 29 players below the age of 24.

“We have watched the Afghanistan versus Qatar game and will work on the attacking transition, with a hope to start scoring goals from the chances we create,” said Stimac on arriving here.

India had their first practice in Doha on Sunday evening and are having the official training session on Monday at the match venue.

For the Blue Tigers, a win is a must. If they lose, then they will be battling in the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers third-round matches for a place at the 2027 tournament in Saudi Arabia. If India draw against Qatar, they will qualify for the third round only if the match between Kuwait and Afghanistan, which will kick off in Kuwait City two hours after India’s match, also ends in a draw.

However, if India beat Qatar, they will be in pole position to make the World Cup qualifiers third round and will get a direct spot at the Asian Cup thanks to their much-superior goal difference over Afghanistan.

#Football #Qatar #Sunil Chhetri


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