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All you need to know about history of Kuwait national team

Published at :June 2, 2024 at 3:16 PM
Modified at :June 2, 2024 at 3:16 PM
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(Courtesy : AIFF media)

Uttiyo Sarkar

Kuwait will be looking to trouble the Blue Tigers in their quest to qualify for the next round.

The Indian football team are poised to host Kuwait in an important FIFA World Cup 2026 Qualifiers round two clash at the Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata on June 6. It’s a vital one for Igor Stimac’s side, who need all three points to qualify for the next round.

However, India cannot underestimate the threat posed by Kuwait at all. The Blue Wave might’ve experienced a slump in form over the last year or so, but they still possess many top-quality players and have a rich history in football.

The Kuwait football team have been playing at the international level since 1961. Their first match was at the 1961 Arab Games, where they were held to a 2-2 draw against Libya. Since then, they have actively participated in international football competitions and produced some high-quality players.

The Blue Wave has qualified for the AFC Asian Cup 10 times in their history and were a major force in the late 1970s and early 1980s. They have even qualified for the FIFA World Cup once in their history.

Major Achievements

The ‘Golden Era’ of Kuwait football began in the 1970s, once they were properly adapted to the international football scene and realized what was needed to topple opponents. The first major tournament they qualified for was the 1972 AFC Asian Cup, where they were eliminated from the group phase, despite winning two of their three matches.

That was the shot in the arm that the Blue Wave needed to take major steps forward in developing as a powerful Asian team. At the 1976 AFC Asian Cup, Kuwait finished as the runners-up.

They defeated the likes of China and Iraq en route to the final, where Iran defeated them. A generation of powerful, technically adept players allowed Kuwait to soar not only in Asia but also in the world!

The Blue Wave got their revenge by winning the 1980 AFC Asian Cup on home turf, defeating favourites Iran and South Korea en route to the title. After that, Kuwait also qualified for the 1982 FIFA World Cup, winning seven of their nine qualification games. They were eliminated from the group phase at that tournament, but at least got widespread recognition for their impressive work.

Kuwait also finished third at the 1984 AFC Asian Cup, but their best era seemingly ended after that. Despite not being able to reach the World Cup anymore, the Blue Wave finished in fourth place at the 1996 AFC Asian Cup and reached the quarter-finals in 2000. They finished as runners-up at two Asian Games in the 20th century (in 1986 and 1998).

On top of this, Kuwait have won quite a few championships in their history. They have won the Arabian Gulf Cup 10 times, the West Asian Games gold medal once and the WAFF Championship once too.

Kuwait’s all-time greatest & current biggest threats

Kuwait might not have that many players to have excelled in Europe, but they’ve been blessed with quality individuals over the decades who have served the national team well.

The Blue Wave’s all-time highest-capped player is Bader Al-Mutawa, who earned 196 appearances and also scored 56 goals – making him the third-highest goalscorer in the national team’s history.

The highest goalscorer in Kuwait’s history is striker Bashar Adullah, who played from 1996 to 2007. He scored 75 goals in 134 appearances, having the third-highest caps and the most goals record too. However, the most clinical was forward Jasem Al-Huwaidi.

He played for the likes of Al-Hilal and Al-Rayyan in his career and scored a whopping 63 goals in 83 appearances for the Blue Wave.

While Kuwait’s current squad is mostly filled with relatively inexperienced players, veteran forward Yousef Nasser has been included in it. He is Kuwait’s highest active goalscorer with 49 goals in 106 appearances and also the 1oth highest capped player for the Blue Wave.

Kuwait’s fearless captain Farhad Al Hajeri has also made 62 appearances for the Blue Wave and is renowned for his no-nonsense defensive ability.

Forward Faisal Zayid, who has made 45 appearances too, is another decisive forward who can cause trouble with his link-up play, movement and goalscoring ability.

Kuwait’s rivalries & record against India

Kuwait share an intense rivalry with both the Iraq and Saudi Arabia football teams. Their fiercest rivals are Iraq and the two shared a real hatred for each other in the 1970s and 1980s. Kuwait defeated Iraq in the 1976 Asian Cup semi-final, which is one of their most prominent wins.

However, the Blue Wave have only defeated Iraq eight times in their 35 matches. 17 of those games have been drawn, which shows how tight the affairs between these two teams can be. Kuwait also share a deep rivalry with the Saudi Arabian team, which is one of the most notable rivalries in the Gulf region.

They have met each other many times in the Gulf Cup and Kuwait even memorably defeated Saudi Arabia in the 1980 Gulf Cup final.

Kuwait’s stronghold over Saudi Arabia has, however, diminished over the last decade or so because of how strong the Saudi team have become. Despite that, Kuwait have still won 15 matches against Saudi Arabia in 42 encounters, while losing the same number.

Kuwait have only played six games against the Blue Tigers. The first encounter happened way back at the 1978 Asian Games, where a really strong Kuwait side picked up a huge 6-1 win.

But, since then, Kuwait have only won one of their five meetings against India – which was a 9-1 win in an international friendly in 2010.

Kuwait have lost their last two matches against the Blue Tigers, which included an embarrassing loss on their home turf in the previous FIFA World Cup qualifier in November 2023.

They will aim to get revenge for that loss when they come to visit the Indian team at the Salt Lake Stadium, getting three points and significantly improving their chances of making it to the third round of the World Cup Qualifiers.

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