India look to leapfrog Afghanistan with a much-needed win

After a loss and successive draws in Group E, India will be eager to register their first win in the FIFA World Cup 2022 and AFC Asian Cup 2023 joint second round Qualifiers. The Blue Tigers will be taking on Afghanistan at the Central Republican Stadium in Dushanbe, Tajikistan on Thursday, November 14. Despite having a superior FIFA ranking (106), India are behind Afghanistan by a point but can leapfrog them in Group E with what would be their first win in the group.

In the past, India have faced Afghanistan eight times, winning six, losing one and drawing one.

India

Igor Stimac’s men will be without defensive stalwart Sandesh Jhingan at the heart of their defence as Hero Indian Super League’s (Hero ISL) first-ever Emerging Player of the Season continues to recuperate from injury. Adil Khan, who scored for the Blue Tigers against Bangladesh in their last game and has been a part of most Stimac squads, will also reportedly be a doubt for the match. Meanwhile, Anas Edathodika has pulled out of the squad due to a family emergency. That might put a makeshift pairing of Subhasish Bose or Rahul Bheke as India’s most viable centre back option if Adil fails to recover in time. The likes of Narendra Gahlot, Nishu Kumar, Pritam Kotal and Sarthak Golui may also get a look in, with the latter, in particular, impressing at the back during Mumbai City FC’s first few games.

India’s midfield and strike options sees Seiminlen Doungel, Jackichand Singh and Farukh Choudhary being drafted into Stimac’s squad after strong performances in the first few weeks of the ongoing Hero ISL season. Choudhary though is likely to start from the bench with captain Sunil Chhetri and Manvir Singh higher in Stimac’s pecking order for forwards. Like Farukh, Doungel and Jackichand is also likely to start on the bench with Udanta Singh, Raynier Fernandes, Vinit Rai, Sahal Abdul Samad, Anirudh Thapa, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Brandon Fernandes and Ashique Kuruniyan, making up the rest of the midfield options. However, one big miss in midfield for India will be the injured Rowllin Borges, who’s spot will most probably be filled by Pronay Halder.   

Afghanistan

Afghanistan, on the other hand, will be keen to keep things tight at the start of the contest and ensure that India don’t find an early goal. They are ranked 149 by FIFA, 43 places below India, but have beaten Bangladesh and are above the Blue Tigers in the group. Midfielder Farshad Noor will pose a big threat and has scored their only goal in qualification so far. Forwards Jabar Sharza and Khaibar Amani will also be getting themselves on the scoresheet after quiet outings in their last few appearances in national colours. However, the Afghans must be compact and not concede early on or else they risk collapsing in a similar manner to their losses against Oman and Qatar. Coached by 29-year-old Anoush Dastgir, Afghanistan are a physically imposing side and the Indian defence will need to be wary of the aerial threat, particularly from set pieces.

Catch the match LIVE at 7:30 PM onwards on the Star Sports network and Hotstar on November 14.

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