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Qatar vs India Team News: Five changes likely as Blue Tigers chase FIFA World Cup Qualifiers Round 3

Published at :June 11, 2024 at 3:49 PM
Modified at :June 11, 2024 at 4:02 PM
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Ashish Negi

Igor Stimac’s team still have everything in their hands to qualify for the next round.

Despite the sadness and disappointment surrounding the Indian football team, today’s match against Qatar in the FIFA World Cup 2026 Round 2 Qualifiers marks the beginning of a new era – an era without the legendary Sunil Chhetri. Since his debut in 2005, Chhetri played 151 matches for India, scoring 94 goals and finishing fourth on the all-time international goalscorers’ list.

The young Indian team, despite the disappointment of securing just one point from a possible four against Afghanistan and playing a 0-0 draw in Kolkata in Chhetri’s farewell match against Kuwait, have struggled offensively, managing only one goal (a penalty) since their winning strike against Kuwait in November 2023. With Chhetri hanging up his boots, India will miss not only their record goalscorer but also their greatest on-field leader.

Igor Stimac forced to change tactics and playing XI

Subasish Bose did not board the flight to Doha with the Indian team due to a family emergency and Nikhil Poojary has been ruled out of the match with an injury.

This leaves Igor Stimac with only five fit defenders available for selection. Off the pitch, Stimac has also expressed disappointment in his key midfielders – Anirudh Thapa, Sahal Abdul Samad and Suresh Singh – who were outplayed by Kuwait in their last match.

Stimac is likely to reshuffle his midfield and reward players like Brandon Fernandes and Rahim Ali, who made a significant impact from the bench against Kuwait.

Five changes likely; India to play dynamic formation

With Nikhil Poojary out, Stimac has the option of using Rahul Bheke at right-back, which would disrupt the recent successful pairing of Anwar Ali and Bheke at centre-back, especially in the absence of India’s main defender, Sandesh Jhingan.

Another option is Manvir Singh, who has experience playing as an attacking wing-back for Mohun Bagan, though it’s uncertain if Stimac will risk using him as a right-back.

Sources indicate that Mehtab Singh will replace Poojary in the playing XI, allowing India to utilize Bheke as a right-back or even switch to a three-at-the-back formation, adapting throughout the game as needed.

In midfield, both Anirudh Thapa and Sahal are set to be dropped and replaced by Brandon Fernandes and Jeakson Singh. Rahim Ali, who had a golden chance to win the match against Kuwait, is expected to start upfront, alongside Lallianzuala Chhangte and Manvir Singh.

If India adopt a dynamic formation, it will require significant coordination on the pitch during different phases of play, necessitating attacking players to contribute defensively.

“For tomorrow, there will be 90 minutes ahead of us representing India and a fantastic opportunity to make all those Indians around the world happy. We are going to die on the pitch tomorrow if needed,” Igor Stimac stated at the pre-match press conference.

Dying on the pitch is not a viable strategy. Instead, the Indian football team’s coaching staff and players need to formulate and execute effective strategies and tactics, just as they did in 2021 when India held full-strength Asian champions Qatar to a goalless draw or defeated Kuwait in November 2023 at their home.

This time, they face a young Qatari team that was held to a goalless draw by Afghanistan last week. If Afghanistan can hold them, the Indian team should aim to defeat this young Qatari side, which is crucial for India to reach Round 3 of the FIFA World Cup 2026 qualifiers and make history, as they have never reached this stage before.

India likely XI

Goalkeeper: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu

Defenders: Rahul Bheke, Mehtab Singh, Anwar Ali, Jay Gupta

Midfielders: Manvir Singh, Jeakson Singh, Suresh Singh, Brandon Fernandes

Forwards: Lallianzuala Chhangte, Rahim Ali

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