India vs Qatar: Post-Chhetri era begins with crunch FIFA World Cup qualifier against Asia's best (2024)

  • Anirudh Menon

Jun 10, 2024, 01:32 PM

The Match

India vs Kuwait, FIFA World Cup Qualifying third round fixture

11 June 2024, Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium, Doha

9.15 PM kickoff (telecast on FanCode, live blog on


The Big Picture

So this is what it's like, preparing for a proper big match without your greatest ever player. India take on Qatar in Doha without Sunil Chhetri and with their chances for qualification to the next stage of FIFA World Cup qualification hanging by a thread.

After their disappointing draw with Kuwait, India remain second on five points -- but Afghanistan are level on points as are Kuwait. The math can be complicated, but we've detailed it here for you. Essentially, though, India need to get some sort of a positive result to be able to advance - and they need to do it against the champions of Asia.

What will give them hope though, is that the likes of Akram Afif and Almoez Ali have been rested. Qatar coach Tintin Marquez, secure in the knowledge of his team's top-spot finish, has called up a young squad for this set of qualifiers. They were impressive against Afghanistan, but couldn't wrest away the win and finished with a 0-0 draw (Qatar's sole non-win in five games in the group). The young bunch will be eager to do better -- knowing how hard it is to break into the current setup, and how hard the competition is amongst themselves.

India, though, must view this as an opportunity. A win here and progression to the next round is a near certainty (unless Afghanistan beat Kuwait by a massive margin), while even a draw can keep them alive depending on the other result in the group. With Chhetri out, the onus is on the other senior players to maintain the standards he brought to the team, and it's up to coach Igor Stimac to identify just how they can make the collective tick.

Having said that he would quit the team if India don't progress (although he's contracted till 2026), Stimac will be feeling the heat acutely ahead of this crunch fixture.

Key Players


Ahmed Al-Rawi

The 20-year-old lead the line against Afghanistan in the absence of the inimitable Almoez Ali, and showed glimpses of his potential. A quick dribbler capable of clever movement off the ball as well, Al Rawi will be keen to test his ability against India's centre-back pairing of Rahul Bheke and Anwar Ali. He plays domestically for heavyweights Al Rayyan and scored 4 goals in 323 minutes of game time (goals per minute works out to one in 80) and has already scored for Qatar in four appearances (against Kuwait).

Also watch out for Tahsin Jamshid, 17, a promising winger who has come up through the Aspire Academy (Qatar's national football school) and various age group levels. What marks him out especially for this game is the fact that both his parents are from... Kannur district, Kerala.


Lallianzuala Chhangte

India: Lallianzuala Chhangte Chhangte is coming off a rip-roaring ISL season, one that made ESPN India name him our player of the season, for the second time running. Capable of explosive displays of controlled pace and skill, Chhangte is India's most threatening player right now. Scorer of seven goals for India, he's also the national team's highest active goalscorer (along with Manvir Singh).

We know he has the ability, but can he now step up his game in India blue?

Concerns (and possible solutions)


Not much.

Marquez's concerns will only be for the future as he tests out his bench strength. With the superstars of his team in their prime right now (Afif and Ali are both 27), there's still a way to go before he has to rely entirely on the bench, but for a team of Qatar's ambitions this is a must-do exercise. They have no injury worries in this young squad after a bruising Afghanistan game either.


Where are the Goals?

India has seen its players exponentially increase their scoring (and assisting) numbers increase in the domestic league (ISL), but that's not translated to the national team. Over the past five years, in fact, Sunil Chhetri has scored a whopping 49% of the team's goals and now they have to look elsewhere. Chhangte is their best bet, but playing him in a role where he can maximise his time in the attacking third is key.

Also important is the distribution of chances - with the focal point gone, India have the opportunity to try out a more flexible system where different attacking players can get on the ends of chances - it's now up to those players to seize it.

Predicted XIs

Qatar XI (3-4-2-1): Saad Al Sheeb (GK); Abdalla Yousif, Mohammad Aiash, Yousef Marel; Tahsin Jamshed, Naif Al Hadrami, Mostafa Meshaal, Homam Elamin; Abdullah Al Yazidi, Yusuf Abdurisag; Ahmed Al Rawi

India XI (4-2-3-1): Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (GK); Nikhil Poojary, Rahul Bheke, Anwar Ali, Jay Gupta; Jeakson Singh, Suresh Singh; Lallianzuala Chhangte, Sahal Abdul Samad, Liston Colaco; Manvir Singh

India vs Qatar: Post-Chhetri era begins with crunch FIFA World Cup qualifier against Asia's best (2024)
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