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India Vs Kuwait Team News: Jay Gupta to make debut, five changes likely in playing XI

Published at :June 6, 2024 at 2:11 PM
Modified at :June 10, 2024 at 8:21 PM
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Ashish Negi

A win for the hosts will mark a fitting farewell for captain Sunil Chhetri.

As the sun sets over the iconic Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan, emotions will run high among Indian football fans. This match is not just any game; it’s the swansong of one of India’s all-time greats Sunil Chhetri. Chhetri, who has donned the Indian jersey 150 times and netted 94 goals, stands tall among football legends, trailing only Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi among active international goalscorers.

At the pre-match press conference, an emotional yet composed Chhetri remarked, “I’m trying hard not to think about the game emotionally.” He knows the magnitude of the task at hand. This isn’t a farewell friendly; it’s a crucial match that could shape the future of Indian football.

Under the leadership of Igor Stimac, India stand on the cusp of history. Despite a disappointing 1-2 loss to Afghanistan in Guhawati in March, the Blue Tigers still have everything to play for. A victory against Kuwait in Kolkata would not only propel India to Round 3 of the FIFA World Cup 2026 Qualifiers but also secure a direct spot at the AFC Asian Cup 2027. Never before have India qualified for the third round of the World Cup Qualifiers and the stakes couldn’t be higher.

Keeping emotions in-check

Amidst the emotional farewell of the captain, Chhetri and coach Igor Stimac must maintain focus. The job at hand overshadows any individual sentiment. Stimac’s tactical acumen will be tested, as he looks to rejuvenate the team after their underwhelming performance against Afghanistan.

Likely changes in playing XI

After a rigorous 27-day training camp, Stimac is poised to make five significant changes to the playing XI.

Defensive Adjustments: FC Goa’s Jay Gupta, who impressed in the ISL 2023-24 season and earned high praise from fans and coaching staff alike, is set to replace the injured Akash Mishra at left-back. This debut in Kolkata will be a grand occasion for the young defender.

Despite recent shaky performances, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu retains his place in goal, as confirmed by Stimac at the pre-match press conference.

Midfield Reshuffle: With Mumbai City’s Apuia unavailable due to university exams, Suresh Singh will make a comeback, partnering Anirudh Thapa, who has shown improved form in recent matches. Jeakson Singh will likely start on the bench.

Attack Reinforcement: Sahal Abdul Samad will return to the No. #10 position, providing a crucial creative spark. Lallianzuala Chhangte and Liston Colaco are expected to join captain Chhetri in the attacking lineup, with Manvir Singh dropping to the bench.

A must-win strategy

Stimac has no room for a conservative approach. He needs an attacking setup, both on-paper and on the pitch, to ensure India can take the game to Kuwait. With the nation’s greatest goalscorer leading the charge, the team are aiming to create history.

Predicted India XI

Goalkeeper: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu

Defenders: Nikhil Poojary, Anwar Ali, Rahul Bheke, Jay Gupta

Midfielders: Suresh Singh, Anirudh Thapa, Sahal Abdul Samad

Forwards: Lallianzuala Chhangte, Sunil Chhetri, Liston Colaco

As India prepares for this pivotal clash, fans and players alike will be hoping for a performance that honours Chhetri’s legacy and paves the way for a brighter future for Indian football.

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