Bhubaneswar (Odisha) | Following a great start to their FIFA World Cup 2026 Qualifiers campaign with a win against Kuwait, Indian men's football registered a heartbreaking 3-0 defeat to Qatar in their second Group A match of the second round at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Tuesday.
Mustafa Meshaal (4'), Almoez Ali (47') and Yusuf Abdurisag (86') registered their names on the scoresheet for Qatar. India had a solid phase near the end of the first half but overall they were no match for the quality offered by Asian champions Qatar, as per Olympics.com.
The loss has kept India at the second spot in Group A, with a win and loss each. The loss also ended Blue Tigers' 15-match unbeaten streak at home.
Indian team made five changes to their playing XI. Amrinder Singh stepped in as a goalkeeper instead of Gurpreet Singh Sandhu but was put under pressure immediately as a misdirected pass from him landed at Almoez's feet, but the shot by Akram Afif missed the target.
Qatari forwards exploited the Indian defence and got in the lead at the fourth minute. Mustafa Meshaal fired a low shot into the bottom corner to give his side the advantage. However, Qatar could not convert their corners later despite winning so many chances at it and the scoreline stayed intact at 1-0.
After the first half an hour, India started to gain some grip of the match and increased the passes into their box and forwards, including skipper Sunil Chhetri managed to get some shots at scoring the equaliser.
Lalengmawia Ralte and Udanta Singh looked extremely confident handling the ball and their deliveries into the box led to an error from Qatar defenders. Anirudh Thapa however could not make the most of this and shot his attempt wide of the goal. This was India's best chance to score in the match.
In the start of the second half, India was put into trouble once again. Afif, who troubled India with his speed throughout the game, had his attempt saved in the 47th minute but netted in the rebound in front of the goal, making the scoreline read 2-0.
Qatar dominated the second half and did not allow Indian strikers to make inroads into their box. The lead tripled for visitors in the 86th minute with a header from Yusuf Abdurisag.
The Indian side will resume their qualifiers campaign with home and away fixtures against Afghanistan in March before they play Kuwait and Qatar in reverse fixtures later in 2024.
The top two finishers in the group will make it to the FIFA World Cup 2026 AFC qualifiers third round while also earning a direct spot into the 2027 AFC Asian Cup.