A Sunil Chhetri-led Indian men’s football team were held to a 1-1 draw by Afghanistan in Doha on Tuesday, sealing third spot in Group E in the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers and a berth in the next round of qualification for the 2023 Asian Cup. India finish behind Qatar and Oman after registering one win in 8 games in this round.
Chhetri, who has scored 74 goals for India, wasn’t able to find the back of the net for India as they benefitted from an own-goal.
While the 105th-ranked India are out of the race for the World Cup qualification, they only need to avoid defeat against the 149th-ranked Afghanistan to confirm the third spot behind leaders Qatar and second-placed Oman in Group E, and progress to the next round.
India started off the better team in the contest as attacked Afghanistan from the get-go. With Sunil Chhetri leading the line ahead of the creative Brandon Fernandes in midfield, Igor Stimac’s side were hoping to nick the lead early on.
India’s attacks produced five corners in the first 22 minutes of the game however Afghanistan’s defense managed to keep India out.
After a drinks break, Afghanistan started clawing their way back into the contest as their midfield started to make an impact but like their opposition failed to find the back of the net.
The trend continued in the second half as well Afghanistan looking more likelier to take the lead. For India however, Glan Martins was putting in a huge shift in the engine room, snubbing out attack after attack.
Shortly after the break, India captain Sunil Chhetri was taken off by Stimac as they looked to ensure the clean sheet wouldn’t be in danger.
With 15 minutes to go though, India took the lead in the unlikeliest manner as Afghanistan keeper Ovays Azizi inexplicably smuggled the ball into his own net while collecting a cross from the left inside the 6-yard box.
The lead would not last too long though as India conceded 6 minutes later when Hossein Zamani placed it masterfully away from Gurpreet to find the back of the net.
While neither side managed to clinch the three points on the night in Doha, India finished third in their group.
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