Bhubaneswar (Odisha) [India], November 20 (ANI): The Indian football team faces a formidable challenge in their FIFA World Cup 2026 Qualifier campaign as they take on defending Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup champions Qatar at Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Tuesday.
Qatar, ranked 61st in the FIFA rankings, boasts quality in their squad and holds the top spot in Group A. Tuesday's match promises to be a tough battle as the Blue Tigers aim to deliver their best performance at home and potentially upset one of Asia's football powerhouses.
In a parallel start to the qualifying round, both India and Qatar secured impressive wins against Afghanistan. Qatar dominated their match, utilising the width of the pitch and launching relentless attacks from the flanks, resulting in a resounding 8-1 victory. This commanding win will undoubtedly boost their confidence as they look forward to continuing their winning run in the Qualifiers.
With that, let's delve into a brief overview of the Qatar national football team.
-HistoryEstablished in the 1960s, the Qatar Football Association affiliated with FIFA three years later. While Qatar has a rich history in continental football, their participation in the FIFA World Cup 2022 stands out as a significant milestone.
The Maroons secured their first AFC Asian Cup title in 2019, having qualified for every Asian Cup edition. They have also clinched the Arabian Gulf Cup three times and the WAFF Championship in 2014.
Despite their early exit from the World Cup 2022, Ghana-born Mohammed Muntari made history by becoming Qatar's first goal scorer in the tournament. Forward Hassan Al-Haydos, the current captain, boasts 129 appearances with 48 goal contributions. Qatar achieved its highest FIFA ranking of 42 in 2021 under head coach Felix Sanchez, as per a press release from the Indian Super League (ISL).
-Form GuideFollowing a disappointing performance in the FIFA World Cup 2022, where Qatar became the first host country to be eliminated after two group-stage matches, the Maroons have had an unimpressive run in 2023, winning only four matches. They reached the semi-final of the Gulf Cup and the quarter-finals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, also suffering defeats against Kenya and Iran in recent friendlies before the World Cup Qualifiers.
-Head-to-Head RecordIndia and Qatar find themselves in the same group for the second consecutive time in the FIFA World Cup qualifying round. The Blue Tigers have yet to secure a victory against Qatar, having played three matches, with Qatar winning twice and one match ending in a draw. In 1996, India suffered a heavy 6-0 defeat against Qatar, but in 2019, they managed to secure a valuable point in Doha with a goalless draw. However, Stimac's side faced a narrow 0-1 defeat at home in the reverse fixture.
-Key PlayersAlmoez AliAlmoez Ali has been in exceptional form for Qatar, playing a crucial role in the team's attacking third. The Sudan-born striker scored four goals against Afghanistan, showcasing ruthlessness in front of goal. He has a total of 46 goals in 90 appearances for Qatar. His swift movement, ability to outpace defenders, and precise finishing make him a valuable asset in Qatar's attacking line.
Hassan Al-HaydosHassan Al-Haydos, the most-capped player in the Qatar squad, has been a pivotal figure for the Maroons over the years. As a creative playmaker, the 32-year-old is capable of both scoring goals and providing assists. With 32 goals and 16 assists for the national team, Al-Haydos can break any defensive line with his stunning through balls, innovative individual brilliance, and smart vision. He is an indispensable asset for his team given his experience and quality.
-Match DetailsFixture: India vs QatarDate: November 21Time: 7:00 PM ISTVenue: Kalinga Stadium, Bhubaneswar. (ANI)