India’s Quest for 3 Points: FIFA World Cup Qualifier Against Weakened Afghanistan

India is gearing up for a crucial FIFA World Cup Qualifier match against a depleted Afghanistan team, aiming to secure three valuable points.

India is presently ranked second in Group A with three points after two games, including one victory.

India’s Quest for 3 Points: FIFA World Cup Qualifier Against Weakened Afghanistan

The Indian football team, encouraged by the return of Anwar Ali and Jeakson Singh, will resume its pursuit of a first-ever spot in the third round of FIFA World Cup Qualifiers on Thursday when it takes against a depleted Afghanistan.

India suffered lengthy injury layoffs recently, but with midfield general Jeakson and center-back Anwar back in the lineup, the Blue Tigers will be optimistic about their chances of defeating the lower-ranked opponents in the second-round preliminary joint qualifying encounter.

India is presently ranked second in Group A with three points after two games, including one victory.

With six points from two victories, reigning Asian champions Qatar top the standings, followed by Kuwait with one victory. Afghanistan is ranked bottom after losing their first two games.

India’s victory over Kuwait on the road has given Igor Stimac’s team a great chance to advance further in the qualification cycle, something the 117th-ranked team has never done before.

India can collect nine points by winning their next matches (both home and away) against the 158th-ranked Afghanistan. The Blue Tigers also stand a good possibility of moving up to second place in the standings, provided Qatar wins its next two games against Kuwait.

In their first qualifying match, India overcame Kuwait (1-0) in Kuwait City; however, they were defeated by Qatar (0-3) in Bhubaneswar.

India and Afghanistan have been regular opponents since their first encounter in 1949, and their regional rivalry has persisted even after Afghanistan’s 2016 exit from SAFF.

The competition persisted throughout the qualifiers for the World Cup, Asian Cup, and other regional and invitational competitions, with India consistently coming out on top.
Even so, the Afghans have consistently shown to be a formidable foe, persevering through to the very end.

Beyond Manvir Singh, who scored a goal in the team’s victory over Kuwait, Sunil Chhetri, who is still going strong at 39, is the most knowledgeable member of this Indian team when it comes to Afghanistan.

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Chhetri has an excellent record versus the neighbors, having scored four goals in eight games, including a fantastic free-kick goal in Kolkata in 2022.
“They have progressively improved from when we met them for the first time,” Chhetri stated.

“The games were easy to play, but they advanced gradually. Additionally, the rivalry developed because they were in the same area.

As a result, the games got really tight. Over the past ten or so years, Afghanistan and India have both progressed. They have benefited greatly from having guys that play outside,” he continued.
Even if Chhetri is still his most important player, Stimac should be as happy that Anwar and Jeakson are back.

Over the past two years, Jeakson has been a key member of the Blue Tigers squad. He has appeared in 17 straight games, starting in the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers in June 2022 and ending in the King’s Cup in Thailand last September.
Stimac’s assessment of him as one of the squad’s biggest losses for the Asian Cup in Qatar serves as a barometer for his significance.

India is also the game’s favorite because of the absence of a few important Afghanistan players, who have been at odds with the Afghanistan Football Federation (AFF) ever since the players accused the organization of corruption, including match-fixing.

As the second qualifying round got underway, tensions between the Afghan players and the AFF began to escalate.
For the match against Mongolia, which the Lions of Khorasan won to advance to the second round, the team had only a few first-team players due to the boycott of up to eighteen players during the qualifiers against Kuwait and Qatar.

However, players like Omid Musawi, Balal Arezou, and Zohib Islam Amiri will try to cause issues for India.

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