Qatar’s sharpness blunt Blue Tigers’ challenge at Kalinga Stadium

Asian Cup champions Qatar proved too hot to handle for Igor Stimac’s boys as the Blue Tigers went down 0-3 in their second match of the FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027 Joint Qualification campaign, on Tuesday, November 21, 2023.

Stimac made five changes to the starting line-up that defeated Kuwait in the first match but it couldn’t stop Qatar from snatching all the three points in their away match. Amrinder Singh, who replaced Gurpreet Singh Sandhu in goal, wasn’t at his best today.   

Qatar did not have to wait long to take the lead. Akram Afif was all over India and the Indian defence made a mess of his corner from the right. Moustafa Mashal found the net with a quick right footer.

In the 19th minute, Sandesh Jhingan’s timely block saved Amrinder the embarrassment of conceding a goal from his wrong pass. However, Amrinder was up to the task three minutes later as an exquisite back heel in the midfield by Mansour set Afif free for a solo run down the left. Amrinder blocked his shot right at the goalmouth.

Qatar’s dominance can be gauged from the fact that they obtained 10 corners in the first half and India got none. India had to weather one attack after another till the 40th minute but improved towards the end of that half. Anirudh Thapa got a real chance to score in the 42nd minute as Boualem Khoukhi lost the ball just outside the box to the constant pressure from Indian captain Sunil Chhetri. He put it on well for Thapa but his shot went wide of the post despite beating Qatar custodian Meshaal Barsham.

Buoyed by those closing minutes, India could have hoped to do better in the second half. But Afif put paid to those hopes as he combined with Mashal. His cross found Afif free inside India’s box on the left. Amrinder did try to block his tap but could not get the ball in full control. Almoez Ali, coming through the middle, put it past the goalline to make it 2-0.

It was all downhill for India from that point onwards. The only bright spot was a move in the 65th minute. Suresh Singh made a great turn in the midfield and found Sahal Abdul Samad free on the left. He did run into the Qatar box with only the goalkeeper to beat but he shot well wide of the second post.

Qatar made it 3-0 five minutes from time through substitute Yusuf Abdurisag’s header.

India: Amrinder Singh (GK); Subhasish Bose, Rahul Bheke, Sandesh Jhingan (Lalchungnunga, 90+3’), Nikhil Poojary; Suresh Singh Wangjam, Udanta Singh (Mahesh Singh Naorem, 46’), Lallianzuala Chhangte (Ishan Pandita, 82’), Anirudh Thapa (Sahal Abdul Samad, 63’); Lalengmawia, Sunil Chhetri (C) (Rahul KP, 82’). 

Also Read: Indian Football is a gold mine waiting to be explored, says Arsene Wenger

Also Read: 2001 World Cup Qualifiers: When the dream run nearly shattered the reality

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