Bengaluru, November 13: As India take on Afghanistan in the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Zone qualifiers Group E tie at the Republican Central Stadium in Dushanbe on Thursday (November 14), they should be eyeing nothing less than a victory.
With just two points from three games, India finds itself in a spot of bother and are launguishing fourth in the table and only a victory against Afghanistan will give them any hope to qualify for the next round.
The Afghans are placed third in the group with one win and two losses.
They face Oman in a tough away fixture at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex in Muscat five days later (November 19).
Indian coach Igor Stimac had said a victory against Afghanistan will boost his side and will help build the momentum for the clash against Oman. Speaking on the eve of the match, the coach said that the Blues will have their task cut out when they face Afghanishtan.
"We know how difficult this game is going to be for us. We both (India and Afghanistan) have already faced Qatar and Bangladesh in the qualifiers. We see Afghanistan as a physical side with good composure. They have some players who also have the experience of playing in Europe. They are not in the top division, but playing in Europe always gives you an extra bit of confidence. They have stamina and they'll pose a tough challenge for us," Stimac said on the eve of the match.
Meanwhile, speaking on the eve of the match, India midfielder Pronay Halder said, "As a player, you have to be confident and face every challenge head-on. That's why we are here. Yes, the conditions have not been in our favour to some extent but that won't have any effect when the referee blows the whistle. If we can execute the coach's plans on the pitch, we can surely hope for a good result."
India began their Road to Qatar 2022 on a disappointing note after a heartbreaking 1-2 loss to Oman at home in a match in which they conceded two late goals after having an upper hand for a major part.
They bounced back quickly to hold AFC Asian Cup 2019 champions and 2022 FIFA World Cup hosts Qatar goalless in a tough away game. But then, they were brought back to earth after being forced to share the spoils against minnows Bangladesh at home.
Anas flies back
A win against Aghanistan is must, but the job is easier said than done as playing them in the capital city of Tajikistan, which is the base of Afghanistan, presents the Blue Tigers with numerous challenges both on and off the pitch. The unfamiliar astro-turf and sub-zero temperatures is already a concern for the team.
The eleventh hour pull out of defender Anas Edathodika, who flew back home from India's training base in Dubai due to a family emergency has compounded India's woes further as they are already without Sandesh Jhingan, who underwent a knee surgery recently.
The Sunil Chhetri-led squad is a blend of youth experience with Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem, who was at the goal during the FIFA Under-17 World Cup held at home two years back, getting his maiden call up for the senior team.
Goalkeepers: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Amrinder Singh, Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem
Defenders: Pritam Kotal, Nishu Kumar, Rahul Bheke, Narender, Adil Khan, Sarthak Golui, Subhasish Bose, Mandar Rao Dessai
Midfielders: Udanta Singh, Jackichand Singh, Seiminlen Doungel, Raynier Fernandes, Vinit Rai, Sahal Abdul Samad, Pronay Halder, Anirudh Thapa, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Brandon Fernandes, Ashique Kuruniyan
Forwards: Sunil Chhetri, Manvir Singh, Farukh Choudhary
Kick off time, TV info
With the war-ravaged Afghanistan unable to play at home, they have chosen Dushanbe, the capital city of Tajikistan, as their home venue for the second round of AFC Zone Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
The match which will be held at the Republican Central Stadium, kicks off at 7.30 pm IST (7pm local time) and will be shown live on Star Sports 1/Star Sports 2 with live streaming available on Hotstar.