Senior National Team
Blue Tigers arrive in Guwahati for renewed battle against Afghanistan
23 Mar 2024

Akhil Rawat
AIFF Media Team

GUWAHATI: The Blue Tigers arrived to a warm welcome in Guwahati on Saturday, March 23, 2024, for their FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup 2027 Preliminary Joint Qualification match against Afghanistan.

India are set to face Afghanistan at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on March 26, in their fourth match of the qualifiers in Group A. The Blue Tigers currently stand second in the group with four points from three games, one ahead of Kuwait, who are on three points from as many matches.

Incidentally, the match on March 26 could mark the 150th International game for India captain Sunil Chhetri. India head coach Igor Stimac hoped that the Blue Tigers striker could make the occasion all the more special with his performance.

“Being chosen to represent your country is a dream of millions of kids when they start kicking the ball, and to make it 150 times is possible only for the GOATs (greatest of all times),” said Stimac. “We hope our captain will make it memorable on March 26 for all Indian fans and himself.”

Chhetri and his men, however, had no time to waste even after a long journey from Saudi Arabia. They immediately got down to business and trained hard for a couple of hours. Afghanistan, too, are in Guwahati and had their training session separately.  

Upon their arrival at the Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport, the Indian Football Team members were presented with the traditional ‘gamcha’ of Assam and were given a guard of honour by local school children on their way to the team bus.

India custodian Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, who kept a clean sheet in the side’s last game against Afghanistan, which ended in a stalemate, marvelled at the reception the team received as they set foot in the Gateway to the Northeast.

“It was very nice of all the people who came to the airport to welcome us and show their love and support for Indian Football. I hope we can repay them with a good result against Afghanistan, something for them to cheer about,” said Gurpreet.

The Blue Tigers had last played in Guwahati five years ago, a 1-2 defeat at the hands of Oman in the FIFA World Cup 2022 and AFC Asian Cup 2023 Preliminary Joint Qualifiers.“It was a good game for us. We had just started our journey with coach Igor Stimac, and I remember we had a good 80 minutes. The support we had was tremendous. The people of Guwahati backed us all the way, and we are hoping for the same this time as well,” said Gurpreet.

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