FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, India vs Qatar preview: Blue Tigers face Qatar challenge
Upbeat India face a daunting task against Qatar in Bhubaneswar.
The Indian men’s football team will look forward to continuing momentum in the second round of the 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers as they prepare to host reigning AFC Asian Cup champions, Qatar, at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Tuesday.
The two teams have faced each other thrice so far in the World Cup Qualifiers with Qatar securing two wins and the other match ending in a draw.
The Blue Tigers have never advanced to the third round of AFC’s FIFA World Cup qualifiers, but a changed format coupled with their terrific form in 2023, gives Igor Stimac’s side a chance to create history. The win against Kuwait in their opening fixture would give them a boost as they will look forward to utilising the momentum and pick up their first win over Qatar.
The Maroons are the higher-ranked team in this fixture but India have proved in the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers that they can go toe-to-toe with Qatar after Igor Stimac's side managed to get a point when the two sides faced each other on September 2019 at the Jassim Bin Hammad Stadium in Doha.
Qatar are favourites despite India being unbeaten at home in 2023 but the Blue Tigers have managed to successfully harness the energy from the crowd in matches played on home turf recently, so the Indian fans will be hopeful of an upset.
India’s excellent record in 2023 has somewhat been blemished by recent defeats but Stimac’s side have won eight out of the 15 matches they have played this calendar year and have won three trophies in the process.
India were unlucky to lose to Malaysia in their Merdeka Cup match with key refereeing decisions going against them. However, they seem to be back on track as they managed a narrow win away at Kuwait on Thursday, their first away victory in FIFA World Cup qualifiers after 22 years.
The Qatar national football team showcased their brilliance when they faced Afghanistan on Thursday, thrashing them 8-1. In their last five matches, they emerged victorious in one, drawn twice, and faced two defeats.
Almoez Ali vs Sandesh Jhingan
The Sudan-born centre-forward who plays for Al Duhail SC, showed a remarkable performance when Qatar dominated Afghanistan in their opening fixture of the 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers as he scored four goals within the first half of the match. The Maroons will put a lot of faith in their star forward when they travel to face India.
Centre-back Sandesh Jhingan has been a wall in the Indian defence, helping them secure a clean sheet in their last match against Kuwait. The FC Goa defender leads the defensive line with so much determination that he commands respect from his teammates as well as his opponents. His physical strength and well-executed tackles, alongside his leadership skills in the backline, make him the perfect weapon that India will rely on to stop Ali.
Hasan Al Haydos vs Sunil Chhetri
The clash of the captains will surely be one to watch as Chhetri would look forward to opening his account this round. Al Haydos, on the other hand, scored the opening goal when Qatar destroyed Afghanistan at the Khalifa International Stadium. Both the players hold huge importance for their respective teams and it would be great to watch who gives their team the edge as they meet at the Kalinga Stadium on Tuesday.
Fixture: India vs Qatar
Date: November 21, 2023
Venue: Kalinga Stadium, Bhubaneswar
Time: 7:00 PM IST
Telecast: Sports 18 1, Sports 18 1HD, Sports 18 3
Live streaming: Jio Cinema