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India faces Qatar in critical World Cup qualifier without Sunil Chhetri

Indian football

The Indian football team, transitioning into a new era, faces a significant challenge as they prepare for a crucial FIFA World Cup qualifying match against Qatar in Doha on Tuesday.

The absence of their iconic captain, Sunil Chhetri, who retired after last week's goalless draw against Kuwait, will be felt deeply. Chhetri concluded his illustrious career with 94 goals in 151 matches, having led the team for over a decade.

In Chhetri's absence, the team will be captained by the experienced 32-year-old goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, who has 72 international appearances.

India, currently second in their group with five points and a goal difference of -3, must secure a positive result against the two-time Asian champions Qatar to keep their World Cup hopes alive.

Qatar, already through to the third round as group leaders, boasts a youthful squad with 21 out of 29 players under the age of 24. India, aware of the formidable task ahead, has been preparing diligently in Doha, with their final practice session scheduled at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium.

Head coach Igor Stimac emphasized the need to capitalize on scoring opportunities, having analyzed Qatar's recent match against Afghanistan, which ended in a 0-0 draw. A defeat for India would end their World Cup qualifying campaign, relegating them to the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers for a chance at the 2027 tournament in Saudi Arabia.

A victory against Qatar, however, would position India strongly for the third round of World Cup Qualifiers and secure a direct spot in the Asian Cup, owing to their superior goal difference over Afghanistan. A draw could still see India advance, provided the Kuwait vs. Afghanistan match also ends in a stalemate.

Despite the uncertainties, India's forward line, featuring Rahim Ali, Manvir Singh, Vikram Partap Singh, and David Lalhlansanga, must step up in Chhetri's absence. The midfielders, including Sahal Abdul Samad, Anirudh Thapa, Brandon Fernandes, Liston Colaco, and Lallianzuala Chhangte, will need to be both creative and tactical in their play.

The defense, led by Anwar Ali, Mehtab Singh, Nikhil Poojary, and Rahul Bheke, will have to be vigilant against Qatar's attack.

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TAGS:Sunil ChhetriFootball World CupWorld Cup QualifierIndia vs Qatar
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