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FIFA: India suffer 0-3 defeat to fancied Qatar


India put up a spirited display but suffered a 0-3 defeat against reigning Asian champions Qatar in their second match of the second round of FIFA World Cup 2026 qualifiers here on Tuesday. Qatar would have won by a bigger margin had they not missed a number of chances as they dominated throughout the 90 minutes at the Kalinga Stadium.

The visiting side scored through Moustafa Tarek Mashal (4th minute), Almeoz Ali (47th) and Yusuf Adurisag (86th).

India, looking for inspiration from their famous 0-0 draw against the same opponents four years ago, could hardly create a scoring chance. They had a few chances at the end of the first half, but they wasted them.

Igor Stimac’s side are still in contention to finish second in Group A and qualify for the third round for the first time after a 1-0 away win over Kuwait on 16 November.

India’s defense was exposed quite early in the game as they conceded a goal in the fourth minute itself.

Beyond the corner, three Qatari players exchanged passes inside the Indian box but none of the home side’s defenders could touch the ball. Then Moustafa Tarek Mashal sent a low right-footed shot past goalkeeper Amrinder Singh, who brought on Igor Stimac for Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, to end it all. Akram Afif missed three chances which allowed India to go in breathing just one goal down. Afif failed to reach the goal in the second minute with only the Indian goalkeeper in front of the post. He also failed to find the target in the 14th, 22nd and 26th minutes.

Amrinder saved Mashal’s free headers for the scorer of the first goal.

With their backs to the wall, India tried to hit the counter and got two great chances, and could have restored parity from the second.

Then, Udanta Singh and Anirudh Thapa had a neat one-touch exchange of passes but Lalengmawia Ralte failed to direct his shot from the edge of the box.

Three minutes from the break, Thapa wasted an easier chance as he only had to beat Qatar goalkeeper Meshaal Barsham after the ball landed on him following a defensive mistake. But Thapa could only produce a feeble shot that missed the post by a wide margin.

If the end of the first half saw some fight back from India, Qatar nipped it in the bud by doubling the lead in the second minute of the second half (47th minute of the match) with their prolific striker Almeoz Ali finding the target.

Ali had scored four goals in Qatar’s 8-1 win over Afghanistan in their previous game.

Thapa was taken off the field in the 63rd minute and replaced by Sahal Abdul Samad. Two minutes later, Suresh Singh found him inside the Qatar box with a brilliant delivery but Samad’s shot was on foot over the far post.

Four minutes from regulation time, Qatar made it 3-0 (86th minute) with Yusuf Adurisag heading home after connecting a cross from Mohammed Albayati.

India will play their World Cup 2026 qualifiers match against Afghanistan at the neutral venue of Dushanbe, Tajikistan on March 21 next year.

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