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Friday, June 14, 2024

Gurpreet Singh named captain for crucial tie against Qatar


The India senior men’s team landed here for the FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup 2027 Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 2 match against Qatar, to be held at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium on June 11.

The match between Qatar and India will be streamed live on FanCode on June 11, 2024, at 21:15 IST.

Head coach Igor Stimac had named a 23-member squad to travel for the fixture. Apart from captain Sunil Chhetri, who retired after his last game for the country against Kuwait on Thursday last, defenders Amey Ranawade, Lalchungnunga and Subhasish Bose did not travel to Qatar.

Bose was released on his request because of personal reasons.

About Ranawade and Lalchungnunga, Stimac said, “I was happy to have both of them with us. We worked on various aspects of their game for the future. We had a nice talk before we released them and they know which parts of their game they need to grow for the upcoming season. I hope both of them will use the time ahead to improve and come back stronger.”

As far as the captain’s armband is concerned, Stimac mentioned that it was a no-brainer to hand it to Gurpreet Singh Sandhu for Tuesday’s match.

With 72 caps, the 32-year-old is now the most experienced and longest-serving player in the national team after Chhetri’s departure.

“Gurpreet was one of our captains alongside Sunil and Sandesh (Jhingan) for the past five years, so naturally he is the one to take responsibility at this moment,” said Stimac.

India’s next opponents Qatar, who have already qualified for the third round as group-toppers, have named a largely youthful squad, with 21 out of their 29 players below the age of 24.

The two-time Asian champions were held goalless by Afghanistan in Hofuf, Saudi Arabia, on Thursday, in a match they dominated, but failed to break down the resolute Afghan defence.

“⁠We have watched the Afghanistan versus Qatar game and will work on the attacking transition in the next two days, with a hope to start scoring goals from the chances we create,” said Stimac.

For the Blue Tigers, a result is a must. Should they lose against Qatar, they will be eliminated from the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers third round. They will be transferred to the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers third round to battle for a place at the 2027 tournament in Saudi Arabia.

But if India beat Qatar, they will be in pole position to qualify for the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers third round and a direct spot at the AFC Asian Cup thanks to their much-superior goal difference over Afghanistan.

If India draw against Qatar, they will qualify for the third round only if the match between Kuwait and Afghanistan, which will kick off in Kuwait City two hours after India’s match, also ends in a draw.

In that scenario, India will finish second in the group with six points, the same as Afghanistan, but with a better goal difference.

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