India face an uphill task to get their first points on the board in the FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifiers, when they face Qatar in Doha on Tuesday.
Round 2 of the joint qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup kicked off last week, with teams looking to get a step closer to the finals in Qatar. The hosts of the World Cup will be in action on Tuesday, when they play hosts to India at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium in Doha.
Qatar do not need to win their group in order to reach the group stages of the World Cup. But, with this round also serving as joint qualifiers for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup, the Maroons cannot tread lightly. Felix Sanchez Bas’s men kicked things off with a 6-0 trouncing of Afghanistan and will be the favourites to top the group.
India, on the other hand, have taken positive steps steps under Igor Stimac, even though the results hardly reflect that. With the Croat overseeing matters, the Blue Tigers are playing a more attractive brand of football, although there needs to be a considerable level of improvement in fitness, a lack of which saw India lose 2-1 to Oman after leading after leading for much of the game.
The two sides last met in a friendly in the same stadium as Tuesday’s game, where India handed Qatar a 2-1 defeat, with Sunil Chhetri getting on to the score sheet. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Felix Sanchez Bas is missing a key player for the second Round Two FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifiers fixture, with Karim Boudiaf out injured. Otherwise, the Qatar head coach has a full strength squad at his disposal, with the group being well settled under his charge.
Saad Al Sheeb will take his place in goal for the hosts, with the 29-year-old being a mainstay between the sticks. In front of him, Qatar will line up in a 4-3-3 formation, with the focus being on tightening up defence while moving the ball forward at pace to catch their opponents off guard.
Boualem Khoukhi and Tarek Salman comprise a solid central defensive partnership that has not been beaten easily by Asian opposition in recent past. Ro-Ro and Abdelkarim Hassan ought to be the two full-backs, who will be tasked with providing the width in the final third while also supporting the centre-backs well.
Up ahead in midfield, Bassam Al-Rawl will start in place of the injured Boudiaf, reprising the Anchor Man role. Al-Rawl will have the responsibility of dictating the tempo of the game while also stifling India in their build-up play. Assim Madibo will be the workhorse of the side, while Akram Afif will play in a more withdrawn role in the midfield three instead of playing upfront.
Up ahead in attack, fiery striker Almoez Ali will lead the line against India, with the 22-year-old in simply irresistible form. Qatar captain Hassan Al-Haydos will be deployed on the left side of the attack, with Yusuf Abdurisag completing the lineup for the hosts.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Al Sheeb; Ro-Ro, Salman, Khoukhi, Hassan; Madibo, Al-Rawl, Afif; Abdurisag, Almoez Ali, Al-Haydos
Igor Stimac does not have any fresh injury concerns to deal with ahead of the daunting Qatar test. But, the India head coach could make one or two changes to the side that was beaten by Oman last time out.
In particular, defence poses a problem for the Blue Tigers, with lack of pace catching them out in Guwahati. Qatar will be an even tougher test for the stuttering defence, with Sandesh Jhingan’s lack of mobility being a problem area at times. Rahul Bheke too, has not set the stage alight in his early days as an India international.
The 28-year-old could be the one to make way, with Pritam Kotal taking his place on the right side of the defence. Jhingan could keep his place for now, with Adil Khan being his central defensive partner. Subhashish Bose is blowing hot and cold due to the constant shuffling of positions. But, the 24-year-old should retain his place as the left-back.
Up ahead in midfield, Anirudh Thapa and Rowllin Borges should keep hold of their places. Thapa is the one who will pull the strings in the middle of the park, with Borges doing the legwork on both ends of the pitch, linking up defence with attack.
Much of the attacking unit picks itself, with Sunil Chhetri leading the line for India, while Udanta Singh and Ashique Kuruniyan will be the two wingers. Sahal Abdul Samad will vie with Brandon Fernandes to be India’s no. 10, but the latter will likely retain his place for the match against Qatar.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Gurpreet; Kotal, Adil Khan, Jhingan, Bose; Thapa, Borges; Udanta Singh, Fernandes, Ashique Kuruniyan; Chhetri
- India and Qatar will be meeting for the third time on Tuesday. In their two previous clashes, both sides have won one fixture each, with the aggregate scoreline reading 7-2 in favour of Qatar.
- India have managed to win just one of their last five games, with the solitary win coming against Thailand (D1 L3).
- India have scored in all six of their recorded games under the tutelage of Igor Stimac so far.
- Qatar have won each of their last eight competitive fixtures against Asian opposition, scoring a staggering 25 goals while conceding only once.
- Almoez Ali has been on the score sheet on all but two fixtures in which Qatar have found the back of the net in 2019. In all, his tally for the year reads nine goals in 12 games.
Player to Watch
All eyes are invariably on Sunil Chhetri when India take the field. But, against Oman, the one player who turned heads was Ashique Kuruniyan. A surprise inclusion ahead of Lallianzuala Chhangte, the 22-year-old made his opportunity count, in what was only his 13th outing for the national side.
Now, with one of the powerhouses of Asian football in Qatar being India’s next opponents, Ashique Kuruniyan has the chance to nail down his place in the side. A dazzling winger when on the ball, it will be his performance off it that will hold the key, seeing as his deceptive movements can help create space for Chhetri.
His link-up with Anirudh Thapa will be crucial as well, with the midfielder being the chief creator for India in midfield. All in all, Kuruniyan could be the visitors’ most key player on the day, even as all the focus will be on the India captain.
Qatar 3-1 India
India have made massive improvements under Igor Stimac, with their stylish attacking play leaving the majority pleasantly surprised. But, defensively, there still remain gaping holes in the side, with the defenders’ lack of pace being the Achilles heel for the Blue Tigers.
With Qatar being rapid with their counter-attacking style, India could have a long night to look forward to, with Gurpreet Singh Sandhu having it all to do in goal for the visitors. But, Igor Stimac’s men are likely to make some sort of an impact on the other end as well, with Ashique Kuruniyan and Sunil Chhetri being the key men.
In the end, Qatar should have more than enough quality to get past the resolute visitors, who will need to focus on the other games to progress further in the qualification process. The Hard Tackle predicts a 3-1 win for Qatar, with India suffering their second successive defeat in the FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifiers Round Two.