India run into hosts Qatar for their FIFA World Cup qualifier at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in Doha today (Tuesday).
Still recovering from the 1-2 loss against Oman at Guwahati on Thursday last, when the visitors came from behind to seal the match in the last eight minutes, India have suffered another jolt before facing their fancied rivals. Skipper Sunil Chhetri is not fully fit and remains a doubtful starter against 62nd-ranked Qatar.
The FIFA World Cup 2022 host and Asian champions Qatar start firm favourite against 103rd-ranked India.
On the day, India went down fighting against Oman, Qatar had thrashed Afghanistan 6-0 to start their campaign on a high note.
India have also shown improvement in recent times as was seen during the Asian Cup in January where they gave scares to the likes of the UAE and Bahrain and missed qualifying for the knock-out round by a whisker.
Historically, Qatar have been the dominant side, having won three out of four official matches played against India. One match ended in a draw.
Chhetri’s presence in crucial for India, who have shown a remarkable improvement in the past few years. The skipper though has confessed that the game in hand today (Tuesday) is the most difficult one in their World Cup qualifying campaign.
“We are, however, looking forward to it…there will be a fight, no matter who we play. We have to make sure we don’t repeat the small mistakes that cost us three points (against Oman),” the 35-year-old talisman said.
Head coach Igor Stimac, who prefers possession-based football by building from the back, sought to dwell on the positives from the Oman match and said that his side has nothing to fear against Qatar.
“Qatar are the strongest team in the group and playing them will not be easy. However, it’s a great opportunity to learn from. We have to change 4-5 players. There is no reason to fear and we shall look to score goals and play good football,” Stimac said.
Qatari players are not taking India lightly and they are expecting a stern test from the visitors.
“India had a good match against Oman, despite the defeat. They also performed well in the AFC Asian Cup earlier this year and they are always improving. We know that they are a good team and we respect them,” said defender Pedro Miguel.
The match will start at 10 pm India time.
Qatar: Saad Sheeb, Meshal Barsham, Mohammed Al-Bakri, Pedro, Salem Al-Hajri, Tareq Salman, Abdulkarim Hassan, Boualem Khoukhi, Hassan Al-Haydos, Akram Afif, Abdulaziz Al-Ansari, Hashim Ali, Bassam Al-Rawl, Assim Madibo, Almoez Ali, Karim Boudiaf, Ali Afif, Musaab Keder, Ahmed Fathy, Yousef Abdelrazzaq, Al Mahdi Ali, Ahmed Alaaeldin, Abdulaziz Hatim, Abdullah Abdul Salam.
India: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Amrinder Singh, Kamaljit Singh, Vishal Kaith, Rahul Bheke, Nishu Kumar, Pritam Kotal, Anas Edathodika, Sandesh Jhingan, Narender Gahlot, Sarthak Golui, Adil Khan, Subhasish Bose, Mandar Rao Dessai, Nikhil Poojari, Udanta Singh, Anirudh Thapa, Raynier Fernandes, Vinit Rai, Sahal Abdul Samad, Brandon Fernandes, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Halicharan Narzary, Ashique Kuruniyan, Balwant Singh, Sunil Chhetri, Manvir Singh.
Fans in India can catch the action LIVE on Hotstar and Jio TV. The fans using android phone and also download the Mobdro app to watch the LIVE action on Middle East sports channel Bein Sports.