World Cup Qualifier Recap: Afghanistan Upsets India in Sunil Chhetri’s 150th International Appearance

The lower-ranked Afghanistan pulled off a remarkable 2-1 victory against India, marking one of India’s most unexpected defeats in recent history.

Chhetri scores in the 150th game, but Mukhammad and Akbari allow Afghanistan to counter.

World Cup Qualifier Recap: Afghanistan Upsets India in Sunil Chhetri’s 150th International Appearance

Sunil Chhetri sat with his head buried in his hands. Ashley Westwood, who guided him to two I-League championships and a Federation Cup at Bengaluru FC, was being tossed around on the field. The distance between madness and dishonor was less than fifty yards. 

In the 38th minute, Chhetri scored his 94th goal for his country, making history by being the first player to score in any of his first, 25th, 50th, 75th, 100th, 125th, and 150th games. However, that will only be a minor detail on a night when Afghanistan rallied to win 2-1 and score twice.

After the match, India was still in second place in group A of these 2026 World Cup qualifiers, and they were expected to advance to the third round. However, it’s a mission whose difficulty level keeps going up. India, ahead 1-0 thanks to a penalty kick from Chhetri in Guwahati on Tuesday, would have needed to hold off Kuwait in Kolkata in June until the 71st minute. It is now essential to win.

Afghanistan had 12 shots to India’s 7; they had 5 shots on target to the home team’s single one. It makes sense why Westwood mentioned the “stats” in the TV interview that followed the game. According to him, none of the four Afghanistani players on the field or the bench had clubs. Given that Afghanistan began the same 11 they did last Thursday at Abha, Saudi Arabia, fitness may have been an issue. However, they battled and emerged as the victorious team.

“We would have scored against India with our attacking players,” Westwood remarked, putting himself in the running for the position currently held by Igor Stimac.

Similar to India’s goal, the 70th-minute equalizer was scored against the flow of play. Anwar Ali produced a pair of blocks, and Subhasish Bose only managed to chest it out to Rahmat Akbary, whose shot nutmegged Rahul Bheke and caught Gurpreet Singh Sandhu off guard. Their sole opportunity came from Amiri’s header in the eighth minute, which prompted Sandhu to make a great stop. Taufee Skandari fired from range shortly after, requiring Sandhu to take action once more.

This exceeded India’s capacity, and Chhetri had already been replaced by then. Changes Together with Nikhil Poojary, Anirudh Thapa and Lallianzuala Chhangte located Manvir, who was heading over as a striker at the time. Stimac reiterated what he has maintained since the Asian Cup: there was no impact from the bench.

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World Cup Qualifier Recap: Afghanistan Upsets India in Sunil Chhetri’s 150th International Appearance

India had a strong start and was never in control until a misunderstanding between Sandhu and Ali caused the goalie to crash into an attacker and give up a penalty. Without a club, Afghanistan’s defender Sharif Mukhammad sent Sandhu the wrong way in the 88th minute, and shortly after, players were fainting in tears of ecstasy, as India never seemed like they could score.

The top players in India have been surpassed by the remaining players, who are primarily cobbled from amateur teams in Europe and Canada and eighteen players who have boycotted the national squad. Afghanistan had done it in the SAFF Championship final in 2013, with the Indian Super League (ISL) being an idea whose time had not yet come. The fact that they had their strongest team then was a small comfort.

This was the first time India, ranked 117, had lost to Afghanistan in almost five years under Stimac, following three ties, two of which resulted from goals scored late, and a win in 2022 via a goal scored even later.

“We weren’t in control at first. We anticipated our gamers to put up more of a fight. And we gave up stupid aims,” Stimac remarked. Then he declared the obvious: once again, their passing and ball control demonstrated our position.

After October 13, Chhetri had not scored for India. Three minutes into this 2026 World Cup qualifier, it appeared as though the lean spell might break, but Chhetri managed to find the upright. Manvir missed the rebound, therefore it wasn’t a goal that should have been. When Haroon Amiri, the captain of Afghanistan, stopped a delivery with his hand, Manvir was awarded the penalty. Chhetri performed his two-step technique and fired into a corner that goalie Ovays Azizi was unable to stop.

Brandon Fernandes, Liston Colaco, and Chhetri were replaced by Anirudh Thapa, Naorem Mahesh, and Lallianzuala Chhangte in the three substitutes made by India coach Igor Stimac.

However, the visitors discovered the equalizer, and these adjustments had little effect in maintaining India’s supremacy. India was in for a worse surprise when the foreigners managed to break another Indian heart by putting one past a helpless Sandhu.

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