With qualification for the 2022 World Cup all but over, India will be aiming to be log as many points as possible in the remaining games to stay in the hunt for a spot in the 2023 AFC Asian Cup. The Blue Tigers are set to lock horns with Qatar, a team that is 47 places higher in the FIFA rankings.
The Indian team have their priorities sorted. Concede fewer goals in the remaining matches, log as many points as possible, preferably double wins over Bangladesh and Afghanistan and create the best possible scenario to qualify for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup. While the burden of progressing to the next round in the World Cup Qualifiers is off their shoulders for good, there’s still a lot at stake. Technically, the match against Qatar would not suffice to any of India’s current targets apart from keeping a check on the goal difference, with a win out of reach and a repeat of the historic draw far too unrealistic.
The fact that India played its last international match with full strength nearly one-and-half years ago and it would eat up vital playing time to get the rhythm going once again. Dual encounters in March earlier this year against Oman and UAE cannot possibly forecast the trend of the upcoming matches. Igor Stimac fielded a relatively young side back then, as part of his experimental policy which was dealt with heavy criticism. With the core players back and no injury concerns as such, the quality of football is likely to be restored.
The only aspect which might favour India is the absence of Qatar’s vociferous fans at the stadium, which created a huge impact during their 0-0 draw in the last head-to-head encounter. Apart from that, the odds are heavy stacked against the Blue Tigers. But, they’ve held on to the Qatari attack in the past, that magical night in Doha still fresh in their memories and would act as a major source of inspiration when similar foes cross paths on Thursday evening. India will get also get a boost as talismanic striker Sunil Chhetri is set to make a comeback after missing out on the friendlies earlier this year.
Not the shrewd striker every team would crave for, but Manvir Singh has created a niche of his own with his poaching skills and physical presence. Thriving in the midst of a forward line that is already clogged with players like David Williams and Roy Krishna is no ordinary feat. The Punjab-based forward has matured immensely after his move to ATK-Mohun Bagan, having scored 6 goals and assisted 3 times in the previous season.
The hangover was evident in India’s friendly against Oman when he netted the equaliser with a precise header. With Udanta Singh and Ashique Kuruniyan rocking the flanks, Manvir Singh would be critical to India’s fortunes in the upcoming match.
Goalkeepers: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Amrinder Singh, Dheeraj Singh.
Midfielders: Udanta Singh, Brandon Fernandes, Liston Colaco, Rowllin Borges, Glan Martins, Anirudh Thapa, Pronoy Halder, Suresh Singh, Apuia, Abdul Sahal, Yasir Md, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Bipin Singh, Ashique K.
Forwards: Manvir Singh, Sunil Chhetri, Ishan Pandita.
The Gulf nation has already qualified for the 2022 World Cup by virtue of being hosts, while Qatar’s 2023 AFC Asian Cup berth is almost secured. The only motivation for them going forward is a top place finish in the group stage, coupled with some valuable game time ahead of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, where they are playing as an invitee. As far as their recent records are concerned, Felix Sanchez Bas' side are been unbeaten in the last four international matches, which includes wins over Luxembourg and Azerbaijan.
Qatar has won five out of their six matches and played out a draw on one occasion. Incidentally, the two points lost in their campaign was against India, in September 2019. However, with the rest of the matches shifted to Qatar itself, the hosts have been handed the best possible situation to dominate against comparatively inferior teams. Boasting of a lethal attacking line-up with Hasan Al-Haydos leading the pack, Qatar is staring at nothing less than a convincing win, unless a miracle takes place.
The Qatari forward has been phenomenal for the national side in the past few matches, with his playmaking skills equally complementing the goals he has scored. The Al-Duhail SC centre-forward scored a goal each in their friendly matches against Ireland and Luxembourg earlier this year, while his goal count in the current World Cup Qualifiers reads six.
Ali was the top scorer (9 goals) and the best player in Qatar’s 2019 AFC Asian Cup triumph, including goals in the semi-final and the final. India should not forget that Almoez created numerous openings for Qatar in their H2H match. Even though the visitors were lucky on the evening, there’s certainly no guarantee of a repeat if the Indian’s fail to mark him properly.
Goalkeepers: Saad Al-Sheeb, Meshaal Barsham, Mahmoud Abunada, Salah Zakaria.
Defenders: Musab Khoder, Pedro Miguel, Tarek Salman, Bassam Al-Rawi, Ahmed Suhail, Boualem Khoukhi, Homam Ahmed, Sultan Al-Brake, Abdelkarim Hassan,
Midfielders: Salem Al-Hajri, Assim Madibo, Karim Boudiaf, Khalid Muneer, Abdulaziz Hatem, Youssef Abdel Razaq, Mohammed Waad, Hassan Al-Haydo, Abdullah Abdulsalam,
Forwards: Mohammed Muntari, Almoez Ali, Akram Afif, Ismaeel Mohammad, Ahmed Alaaeldin.
India vs Qatar (Match Details)
Match Date: 03-06-2021
Venue: Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium
Time: 10:30 PM IST
Telecast: Star Sports 2/ Star Sports 2 HD, Star Sports 1 Hindi/ Star Sports 1 Hindi HD, Star Sports 3, Star Sports 1 Tamil, Star Sports 1 Telugu, Star Sports 1 Kannada, Star Sports 1 Bangla