The Indian football team ended their World Cup Qualifiers campaign with a 1-1 draw against Afghanistan at Doha on Tuesday.
The Indian football team ended their World Cup Qualifiers campaign with a 1-1 draw against Afghanistan. As a result, they booked a berth in the next qualifying round of the Asian Cup in Doha, Qatar on Tuesday.
A howler by Afghanistan goalie Ovays Azizi gave India a 1-0 lead in the 75th minute. However, Hossein Zamani equalised in the 81st minute to give India jitters towards the end.
Incidentally, the two sides played out a 1-1 draw in the first leg match in Dushanbe in 2019. This game was, however, affected by poor refereeing.
The game was mostly open and the tempo was very quick. At times, the Afghansistan players took liberties and as a result it was a match strewn with fouls. To make matters worse, referee Ali Reda didn’t do enough to control the bout.
Both sides looked to keep the ball but it was India who had more shots on target – 10 as against seven from Afghanistan.
The Afghans did, however, commit more fouls – 16 of them as against nine by the Indians. As a result, they also copped more yellow cards – three to India’s one.
With seven points from eight matches, India finished third in Group E behind toppers Qatar and Oman. They also finished ahead of Afghanistan, who are 4th with six points from 8 games.
The Igor Stimac-led Indian team ended their World Cup qualifying campaign with one win, four draws and three losses.
Besides the win against Bangladesh, the first leg 0-0 draw against Asian champions Qatar in 2019 was arguably their best result.
India dominated the early period, with captain Sunil Chhetri looking particularly lively. But they created bvery little of note and as such, the Afghanistan team grew into the game.
As the Afghans dominated the ball, their confidence grew. Indeed, they were the better side in the later part of the first half. They even had a few shots on target but none caused Gurpreet Singh Sandhu any issues.
Five minutes before the break, Ashique Kuruniyan ran into space on the left side of the box. However, his low cross failed to reach Chhetri and as a result, an Afghan defender cleared the danger.
Chhetri, who scored twice against Bangladesh to rescue what looked a hopeless cause, could not repeat that performance tonight. Amazingly, he was substituted in the 69th minute when the game was still goalless.
Brandon Fernandes, whose energy and industry in midfield is hard to replicate, also wound up being subbed off in the 62nd minute.
The Afghans, much like the latter parts of the first half, looked better early in the second half. Indeed, they looked the likelier team to score at one point.
However, India took the lead in the 75th minute in the freakiest circumstances possible.
Kuruniyan lobbed a hopeful cross in from the left that Suresh Wangjam looked to reach but failed. The goalkeeper Azizi rose for what should have been a routine catch.
Amazingly, he not only dropped the ball but saw it go between his legs and into the back of the net. But India’s joy was shortlived as Zamani curled one past Gurpreet.
The last few minutes were nervy for the Indians. However, they held on to get the draw they needed to make it to the next round of AFC Asian Cup qualifying.