India play Afghanistan to earn a spot in the third round of Asian Cup 2023 qualifiers

India will qualify for the third round of Asian Cup China 2023 qualifiers if they avoid a defeat against Afghanistan.

Indian football team training session ahead of the match against Afghanistan; Credit: Twitter/@praful_patel
By Sreejith C R | Jun 15, 2021 | 3 Min Read follow icon Follow Us

India face Afghanistan at Jasim bin Himad stadium on Tuesday in their final Group E fixture of World Cup 2022 and Asian Cup 2023 qualifiers. Igor Stimac’s side will surely qualify for the third round of Asian Cup China 2023 qualifiers if they avoid a defeat today. The Blue Tigers will be full of confidence after beating Bangladesh 2-0 in the previous game, courtesy of a brace from captain Sunil Chhetri. It was India’s first win after a 11-match winless streak. India is ranked 109th in the World whereas Afghanistan is 149th.

India would certainly go for all three points against Afghanistan on Tuesday.

“I need to say that I don’t know any coach or any team who would come out playing for a draw. Even that might seem to be a situation when you are facing much better sides. Then, you need to drop and defend for your life and wait for one, two or three chances to counter-attack like against Qatar. But, we are not going out to play for a draw. Rather, we will go out to win it,” Igor Stimac said at a pre-match press conference.

India show glimpse of potential

Under Igor Stimac, the Indian football team has been trying to play some attractive possession based football for some time now but were unfortunately not getting the results. But in the last game against Bangladesh they showed glimpses of that possession based game with playmaker Brandon Fernandes at the thick of things and got the much needed win.

“As a coach, I have tried to prepare our team in the best possible way – to keep them motivated. Wearing the national team jersey is the biggest motivation for any player, and it comes with a huge responsibility. You know how big a population is backing us, and whoever is wearing the Indian shirt has that unique chance to make the 1.4 billion people proud,” he said.

After losing to Qatar 1-0 in the first match with 10-man India came back strong to defeat Bangladesh 2-0 and earn their first win of the campaign.

“Afghanistan are full of players with international experience, and most of the players are playing in foreign leagues. You can recognise it when you gauge their confidence on the ball. But at the same time, we see our chance and need to go out on the pitch and play good football and to make sure we finish this tournament on a winning note,” the Croatian expressed.


Gurpreet Singh who was superb in the last two matches will surely keep his place in the goal. Sandesh Jinghan and Chinglensana Singh will be the two center-backs. If Stimac plays with three at the back, Subhasish Bose will be the third central defender. Suresh Singh, who had a very good game at right-wing-back in the previous outing is likely to keep his place in the eleven. He also provided the assist for Chhetri’s second goal against Bangladesh. Meanwhile, Ashique Kuruniyan who came in the second half of last match to deliver a superb cross for Chhetri’s opening goal is likely to start the game this time around replacing Bipin Singh at the left-wing-back.

The two Goan’s, Glan Martins and Brandon Fernandes will be the two midfielders. Glan will operate as the holding midfielder while Brandon will be the play-maker. Chhetri and Manvir are going to be the strikers. Either of Muhammad Yasir, Udanta Singh or Sahal Abdul Samad could come in as the third midfielder depending on the coach’s plan.

India are presently placed 3rd in the group with 6 points from 7 games. A win or a draw today will ensure them a place in the Round 3 of Asian Cup qualifiers. Whereas a loss will allow Afghanistan to replace India at third spot and then India will have to wait and see if they can go to the next round as the four best fourth placed teams via play-offs.

India are already out of reckoning for the Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifiers and are playing for the Asian Cup 2023 qualification.

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