The Indian football team faced a challenging start in the AFC Asian Cup campaign, succumbing to a 0-2 defeat against Australia in the opening match of Group B at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan on Saturday.

Australia demonstrated dominance throughout the game, securing a comfortable victory with goals from Craig Irwine (50’) and substitute Jordan Bos (73’).

India's head coach Igor Stimac implemented three changes to his side following their 0-3 defeat to Qatar in the 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifier in November. Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Manvir Singh, and Deepak Tangri were handed starts, with Mohun Bagan Super Giant midfielder Tangri making his debut.

Australia initiated the first chance of the game, with full-back Aziz Behich unleashing a powerful shot from outside the box that narrowly missed the target.

Graham Arnold's side created another promising opportunity when Martin Boyle attempted a diving header from a cross, but it was easily collected by Sandhu.

In the 16th minute, India registered their first attempt as Sunil Chhetri came close to giving India the lead. Nikhil Poojary's run towards the byline resulted in a deflected cross into the box, and Chhetri's header narrowly went wide.

Australia launched waves of attacks, but India's defense, led by Sandesh Jhingan and Rahul Bheke, remained compact and maintained their shape.

In injury time of the first half, India produced another attempt as Suresh Singh Wangjam won the ball high up the field and attempted a shot from 25 yards out, lacking the necessary punch and easily collected by Australia goalkeeper Matt Ryan.

India's hard work in defense unraveled early in the second half when a lapse in concentration led to Sandhu miscuing a clearance from a corner, allowing Irwine to strike a fierce shot from close range and give the Socceroos a well-deserved lead.

Australia continued to dominate possession, and India struggled to create opportunities. However, during the 69th minute, a bizarre moment nearly resulted in India conceding when a backpass seemed destined for the goal but changed direction, bringing relief to Arnold and his team.

Australia's substitutes played a crucial role in the second goal, with Riley McGree providing a brilliant cutback for full-back Bos to slot in at the far post.

Australia had more opportunities to extend their lead, including a free-kick from substitute Bruno Fornaroli, parried away by Sandhu at the far post. Bos also narrowly missed the target with a low shot.

This marked Australia's second consecutive win against India, having previously beaten them 4-0 in the 2011 edition.

Looking ahead, India faces Uzbekistan on Thursday, aiming to revive their AFC Asian Cup campaign.