FIFA WC qualifiers: Manvir Singh injury may force India to reset against Qatar | Football News
This is probably the only Indian city where the words “World Cup” inspire nothing but despair. Due to last Thursday’s 1-0 win against Kuwait there has been a big increase in the demand for tickets for Tuesday’s game. But since India are facing Asian champions Qatar who “destroyed”, according to India head coach Igor Stimac, Afghanistan 8-1, hope needs to be tempered with a dollop of reality.
“We have nothing to lose and plenty to gain. So, let’s do that,” Stimac said in Bhubaneswar on Monday.
In 2019 without Sunil Chhetri, India were the only Asian team to take a point from Qatar. This is still India’s only point from three World Cup qualifiers against the team that defeated Japan 3-1 in the final of the Asia Cup 2019. In that World Cup qualifier, Gurpreet Sandhu made 11 saved and India escaped with a 0-0 draw despite Qatar having 27 shots (India had two) and 15 corners (India managed one).
“I would rather have to work less and get the same or better result,” Sandhu said ahead of this qualifier for the 2026 World Cup and 2027 Asian Cup.
But there were almost two months of training before that match in Doha, said Stimac. “Four years later, the reconstruction is complete but it won’t stop.” Stimac said that India has grown from being a team that struggled to take the game to Bangladesh and Afghanistan, pulling back from the surprise result against Qatar, “because players like Sandesh Jhingan, Brandon Fernandes and Rowllin Borges available. .”
Now, they can play 11 games against opponents such as Kuwait, Iraq and Lebanon and keep clean sheets in some of them, said Stimac. And stay unbeaten at home. Although he said he would always want Ashique Kuruniyan, Jeakson Singh and Anwar Ali – all out with long-term injuries – the difference now is that there are many young players who have come through the process, who understand that pace in India. Super League (ISL) is different from international game. “So now we won’t be caught if there’s an injury.”
Add Manvir Singh to the list above. The scorer in the 1-0 win against Kuwait may not be available on Tuesday. He retired from training on Monday afternoon, and a long blast from a fog machine preceded the session minutes before the India bus arrived at the Kalinga Stadium.
If India miss Manvir’s physical presence on the right, Stimac could switch to a 4-3-3. Anirudh Thapa, Suresh Wangjam and Lalengmawia Ralte could then form the midfield. Alternatively, Sahal Abdul Samad could drop into midfield. Sunil Chhetri could be flanked by Mahesh Naorem and Udanta Singh in the front three.
“India once had a group of good players. Now, I see a team,” Qatar coach Carlos Queiroz said while drawing on his experience coaching Iran during the 2016 qualifying cycle.
Qatar are the 61st ranked team in the world, which puts them 31 slots above India. But since that 2019 qualifier, they had forgotten the World Cup and the Asian under-20 championship where they lost all three group stage games including 1-9 against Australia.
So, enter the 70-year-old Queiroz to reset and rebuild. Since Italy in 1934, Qatar are the only team to have played in the finals of the World Cup because they hosted it. Under Queiroz, Qatar lost 0-4 to Iran and Panama and 1-2 to Kenya but the Portuguese polyglot said he wants them to be one of the best teams in the world by 2026.
Including Asian Cup golden boot winner Ali Alomez and midfielder Hassan Al-Haydos, this squad features 12 players with World Cup experience. “It’s a great advantage to lead a team for four years. But we didn’t start with zero,” said Queiroz. Qatar may have opened with a big win but they need more, he said.
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