The Blue Tigers have a historical edge over the Lions of Khorasan.
The Indian National Football team will need to push on valiantly as they approach the final hurdle of qualification for the AFC Asian Cup 2023. After having triumphed over Cambodia, India are all set to take on Afghanistan on 11th June. Igor Stimac’s men will once again have the energetic backing of the fans.
India played their first home match in three years as they beat Cambodia with a solid 2-0 scoreline. The Blue Tigers faced Afghanistan last in 2021, during their FIFA World Cup Qualification campaign. Given how the match ended in a stalemate, India will want to make the most out of this one.
Head To Head
India have tussled with the 150th ranked side on 10 occasions before, starting with the clash in 1951 Asian Games. While most of the fixtures include SAFF Championship games, the last two were all-important World Cup Qualifiers. Ahead of the crucial clash on Saturday, let’s take a look at the earlier meetings between India and Afghanistan:
India 4-0 Afghanistan (December 11, 2011)
The defending champions came alive only in the final 20 minutes after Afghanistan’s Hameedullah Yousefzari was sent-off under questionable circumstances. It was around the hour mark that Jeje was allegedly brought down by Faisal Safa inside the box and referee Sukhbir Singh awarded a soft penalty to India. In the aftermath, goalkeeper Hameedullah Yousufzari was given marching orders for pushing the referee.
Chhetri scored from the ensuing spot-kick, but had to retake it due to intrusion from Syed Rahim Nabi inside the box. India’s number 11 sent the substitute Bashir Ahmad Darman the wrong way to help his side surge ahead. With a man down Afghanistan were always susceptible to concede more goals with Faisal Safa receiving treatment on the sidelines.
Chhetri then played Miranda, who took a shot from his unfavoured right foot into the far side of the goal. Chhetri ran with the ball from the left and laid the ball across for Jeje, who from his second touch slotted the ball home for India’s third. Substitute Sushil Singh scored a gem of a goal with the final kick of the match sending the fans into delirium as they celebrated another SAFF Championship triumph.
Afghanistan 2–0 India (September 11, 2013)
The Lions of Khorasan rallied back into the 2013 edition of the SAFF Championship in full strength as they met the Blue Tigers once again. In a repeat of the 2011 final, it was Afghanistan that took the game by the scruff of its neck. Mustafa Azadzoy opened the proceedings in the ninth minute, while Sanjar Ahmadi scored in the second half as Afghanistan lifted their first-ever SAFF Championship title.
India dominated possession and had better chances, but squandered almost all opportunities and ended the game without a goal. It also stopped India from winning the tournament for a third consecutive edition.
India 2-1 Afghanistan (January 3, 2016)
This time around India took back their throne against yet another massive Afghanistan side in the SAFF Championship. Afghanistan had another strong campaign which was marred only by the final defeat to an equally strong Indian side. Jeje Lalpekhlua and Sunil Chhetri scored three goals each for the Blue Tigers in the competition, while Lallianzuala Chhangte and Robin Singh got two apiece.
The Afghans’ Khaibar Amani was the top-scorer in this edition. Jeje and Chhetri’s goals in the final saw them outsmart Afghanistan, who could only score once through Zubayr Amiri. Consequently, India went on to claim their seventh SAFF Championship title. Zubayr had put the Lions of Khorasan ahead through a splendid counter-attacking run in the 69th minute.
But India responded soon after when Chhetri found Jeje behind the Afghan defence from a Holicharan Narzary cross. The Mizo Sniper found the left bottom corner. The game soon headed into extra-time and Chhetri scored the winner eventually for India. It marked the first tournament win for coach Stephen Constantine in his second spell with the Indian team.
Afghanistan 1–1 India (November 14, 2019)
India left it late against Afghanistan to earn a 1-1 draw courtesy of a headed goal in added time by Seiminlen Doungel in this FIFA World Cup Qualifier. Despite being in the ascendancy for most of the match, India failed to find the net till the 93rd minute.
Len Doungel connected with one of the numerous crosses floated into the box by Brandon Fernandes. Afghanistan had found the net in the added time of the first half through Zelfegar Nazary.
India 1-1 Afghanistan (June 15, 2021)
In what was to be the last meeting between the two sides, India and Afghanistan drew 1-1 in their last match of Group E of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers. India nearly took the lead in the first minute, with Manvir Singh forcing a save from Ovays Azizi. That set the tone for the earlier spells as India dominated possession.
They won multiple corners, with Sandesh Jhingan coming closest. However, his effort was cleared off the line by Afghan defender Haroon Amiri. The goal came about in tragi-comic circumstances. Ashique hurled a wayward cross into the box, only for Azizi to fumble while collecting it and bounce it into his own net.
Afghanistan soon found the equaliser through second-half substitute and teenage sensation Hossein Zamani. Receiving a cut-back from Noor Husin, Zamani curled a right-footer into the Indian goal, off the far post. Despite flurries from both sides toward the end, the match ended in a 1-1 draw.