The Blue Tigers will aim to return to winning ways when they host Kuwait in the second round of the 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata on Thursday.

Excitement is palpable as this match signifies the farewell of Indian captain Sunil Chhetri in national colours. A win in Kolkata would almost certainly propel India to the third round of World Cup qualifiers and secure a coveted spot in the 2027 AFC Asian Cup, effectively sidelining Kuwait from contention. India's superior goal difference over Afghanistan serves as an added advantage.

With the stakes high and the standings tight, every point becomes pivotal. A triumph here is imperative for the Blue Tigers to fortify their position ahead of Afghanistan and Kuwait in Group A.

FIFA Rankings

India 121

Kuwait 139

The Blue Tigers saw a significant drop in their ranking following disappointing performances in the AFC Asian Cup in January and their previous encounters against Afghanistan in the World Cup qualifiers in March. Nonetheless, they remain the higher-ranked team in this fixture and are eager to stage a comeback in the qualifiers with a win at home against Kuwait.

With four matches played, Qatar lead the table with four wins. Kuwait, having secured only one victory, languishes at the bottom, with just one point separating them from second and third-placed India and Afghanistan, both on four points.

This clash holds immense importance for Kuwait, as a defeat would effectively extinguish their hopes of progressing to the third round.

Form Guide

India: LDLLL

India's recent form has not been good at all, with the team managing only a draw in their previous five fixtures. The Blue Tigers faced a tough draw in their continental championship group, suffering defeats in all their group matches.

They secured a 0-0 draw against Afghanistan in an away fixture in March but surprisingly suffered a 2-1 defeat to Afghanistan the following week.

However, Igor Stimac’s side is now determined to reverse their fortunes at the Salt Lake Stadium, which has served as an impregnable fortress for the Blue Tigers. They previously notched victories over Cambodia, Afghanistan, and Hong Kong in the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers in June 2022. It's worth noting that India hasn't lost a match in Kolkata since 2006.

Kuwait: LLLLW

Kuwait have also encountered its fair share of challenges in 2024, suffering defeats in all four of its matches, which included two World Cup qualifiers against Qatar and friendlies against Libya and Uganda. Their recent slump in form has seen them drop to 139th in the FIFA Rankings.

Their last victory dates back to November when they secured a comfortable 4-0 win against Afghanistan.

Key Battles

Sunil Chhetri vs. Khalid El Ebrahim:  Khalid El Ebrahim, a stalwart in Kuwait's defence, faces the daunting challenge of containing India's captain, Sunil Chhetri. Chhetri's wealth of experience and clinical finishing make him a constant threat on the field. His adeptness at finding space and capitalizing on defensive lapses could prove decisive in the match.

Anwar Ali vs. Yousef Nasser Al-Sulaiman:  India's robust defender, Anwar Ali is all set to lead the charge in defence once again in the absence of Sandesh Jhingan.

Kuwait's forward, Yousef Nasser Al-Sulaiman, will face off against the centre-back. Ali's blend of physical prowess and tactical acumen will be instrumental in thwarting Al-Sulaiman's goal-scoring threats.

Brandon Fernandes vs. Redha Hani:  The midfield clash is set to be fiercely contested, featuring Redha Hani of Kuwait, renowned for his defensive midfield prowess in breaking up play, against India's creative playmaker, Brandon Fernandes. Fernandes' exceptional vision and precise passing will play a pivotal role in unlocking Kuwait's defence, while Hani's skill in disrupting his rhythm will be equally crucial.

The clash promises to be a thrilling encounter, with everything hanging in the balance, fueling great excitement and strategic gameplay. The familiarity between the two teams ensures a closely contested tactical affair, where the roles of key players and strategic battles on the field will be pivotal.

As the Blue Tigers prepare to take on Kuwait, anticipation builds for what could potentially be the defining moment in their quest for qualification to the FIFA World Cup. With an impressive home record and fervent support from the stands, India are determined to clinch all three points in the match and provide a fitting farewell to their captain, Sunil Chhetri.

Match Details

Teams: India vs Kuwait

Date: June 6, 2024

Venue: Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan, Kolkata

Time: 07:00 PM IST

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