Igor Stimac's side had not so ideal preparation for the remaining matches of World Cup Qualifiers; captain Sunil Chhetri returns after recovering from COVID-19.
The Indian football team will take on hosts Qatar in the joint World Cup and Asian Cup qualifiers on Thursday. Igor Stimac’s side will be going into the match on the back of not-so-ideal preparations. However, the Blue Tigers will take confidence from the fact they held the Asian Champions to a goalless draw in their previous meeting in September 2019. Meanwhile, the return of captain Sunil Chhetri after recovering from COVID-19 will be a boost for the Indian team.
The Indian football team has played only two friendly matches since a hectic 2019 season. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the Blue Tigers didn’t play any games in 2020.
In march, 2021 the team traveled to Dubai, where they faced UAE and Oman. Meanwhile because of the pandemic all the remaining Group E fixtures of combined World Cup and Asian Cup qualifiers were decided to be held in a centralised venue, Qatar.
Igor Stimac’s side didn’t have the best of preparations going into the remaining qualifiers. They had to cancel the camp in Kolkata and landed in Qatar on May 19 for a two-week camp.
However, the Croatian will be looking to squeeze the best out of a young squad. What’s more, they will be itching to impress and cement their place in the national side.
The two Punjabi goalkeepers Amrinder Singh and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu will fight for a place in the starting XI. Amrinder recently joined ATK Mohun Bagan and had an impressive ISL 2021. He even captained his former team Mumbai City FC to the ISL title.
Defender Sandesh Jingan will play his first competitive match for India after suffering from an ACL injury in 2019.
Adil Khan is likely to partner Sandesh in the central-defence. This is because Chinglensana Singh is reported to have a slight niggle.
Pritam Kotal and Akash Mishra are expected to occupy the wing-back positions. FC Goa’s defensive midfielder Glan Martins could make his international debut on Thursday in the absence of injured Rowlin Borges.
Lalengmawia Ralte is also in reckoning for a spot in the midfield since he did well in the trip to Dubai. Either of Brandon Fernandes, Anirudh Thapa or Sahal Abdul Samad could start as the playmaker.
Ashique Kuruniyan and Manvir Singh will occupy the wing’s and Suni Chhetri will be the lone striker. If the Croatian coach opts for two strikers, Ishan Pandita can come in.
Qatar are coming into the match on a high, they beat Luxembourg (1-0) and Azerbaijan (2-1) and played out a 1-1 draw against Ireland in the friendlies in March.
The 2022 FIFA World Cup hosts are sitting on top of Group E with five wins from six games. India are fourth in the table with 3 points from 5 games.
Although India are already out of reckoning for World Cup qualification they are still in contention for a spot in the Asian Cup 2023 to be held in China.