Senior National Team
Narrow defeat against Qatar ends Blue Tigers’ World Cup Round 3 dream 
11 Jun 2024

Qatar 2 (Youssef Ayman Farahat 73’, Ahmed Alrawi 85’)
India 1 (Lallianzuala Chhangte 37’)

Akhil Rawat
AIFF Media Team 

DOHA, QATAR: The Indian senior men's team suffered heartbreak at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium in Doha, Qatar, on Tuesday, June 11, 2024, when they lost 1-2 against hosts Qatar in their final FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup 2027 Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 2 Group A match.

India led 1-0 at half time. India took the early lead in the game through Lallianzuala Chhangte (37’), but Qatar came back in the second half through Youssef Ayman Farahat (73’) and Ahmed Alrawi (85’).

The Blue Tigers, who began the night in second place in the group, were relegated to third place after the defeat, thus losing the opportunity to make it to Round 3 of the World Cup qualifiers. They will now proceed to the AFC Asian Cup 2027 Third Round qualification.

After weathering an initial wave of attacks from Qatar, when the day’s skipper and goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu pulled off a couple of crucial saves, India, without Sunil Chhetri after many years, began to put pressure on their hosts.

Mehtab Singh also played his part, making a goal-line block off a shot by Ahmed Alrawi, to keep India in the hunt early on.

As the first half wore on, India’s three forwards, Rahim Ali, Lallianzuala Chhangte, and Manvir Singh, along with midfielders Brandon Fernandes, Jeakson Singh, and Suresh Wangjam formed a six-man press that launched attacks in waves and did not allow the Qatar defenders to settle on the ball in their own half.

Jeakson played Rahim through behind the Qatar defence in the 25th minute, and the latter sprinted into the box and drove it hard and low across the goal, but the cross evaded the onrushing Chhangte and Manvir.

Almost immediately, Manvir was played through in the 31st minute and just had the keeper to beat, but his effort was parried away. Chhangte intercepted a pass in the Qatar third, played a one-two with Brandon and squared it to Rahim, who was just a yard short of the pass.

The Qatar defence looked shaken, and India were there to capitalise on it. Chhangte opened the scoring in the 37th minute. Jay Gupta, after a one-two with Jeakson on the left flank, played it back to Brandon, who found the perfect weight on his through pass to Chhangte. The nifty winger coolly finished it at the near post.

The momentum completely changed in the second half. India were no longer employing their six-man press, as they remained content with a mid-block instead. Qatar were looking to work the half-space channels, and Alrawi, the recipient of a second cut-back had his shot blocked again by Mehtab.

Sahal Abdul Samad and Liston Colaco, who had replaced Brandon Fernandes and Rahim Ali, almost created that chance. Prowling on the counter, Sahal jinked past his marker and set Liston through, but the latter was just inches offside.

Qatar struck back with a little over 15 minutes of regulation time left, as Youssef Ayman Farahat turned in a cut-back from point-blank range. The Indian players vehemently protested the decision, claiming that the ball had already gone out of play before the goal was scored, but the referee did not budge.

Jay Gupta caused some stir down the left in the 82nd, but a poor touch meant that the Qatar keeper stepped out and parried it off Gupta’s feet. Liston had a chance to score from the rebound, but his shot was deflected before being collected.

India, in their last throw of the dice, brought on Nandha Kumar and Edmund Lalrindika, in place of Gupta, who had hurt himself in the last action, and Chhangte.

Alrawi broke Indian hearts in the 85th when he produced a goal of sublime quality, as he curled it from outside the box, and into the bottom corner past a flailing Gurpreet.

India: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (C & GK); Anwar Ali, Rahul Bheke, Mehtab Singh; Jay Gupta (Nandhakumar Sekar 87’), Suresh Wangjam, Jeakson Singh, Brandon Fernandes (Sahal Abdul Samad 63’); Lallianzuala Chhangte (Edmund Lalrindika 87’), Rahim Ali (Liston Colaco 63’), Manvir Singh (Vikram Partap Singh 79’).

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