All eyes on Almoez Ali, Sunil Chhetri as India face Qatar
India travel to Qatar’s Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium on Tuesday (September 10), hopeful of upstaging Asian champions and hosts Qatar in their 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier.
The Indian team lost to late goals in their first qualifying match game against Oman last week and will look to pull off a huge upset as they clash against the West Asian giants.
Qatar though poses a stern challenge to the Indian camp with a host of big names including Almoez Ali, Karim Boudiaf and Akram Afif. They cruised to comfortable 6-0 win in their opening game against Afghanistan and would be confident on doing much the same to India.
Heading into Tuesday’s game though, here are a few players who could create an impact in the World Cup qualifier.
Sahal Abdul Samad
The youngster from Kerala has thrived since India’s change in management which saw Croatian Igor Stimac take charge. Stimac’s expansive play with an emphasis on possession-based football has boded well for Sahal, who seems to be nonchalant passer of the ball.
Sahal has been effective in distributing the ball across the pitch and was one of the star in their build-up to the qualifiers. Though he did not feature much in their opening game, the Indian camp would bank of the youngster’s crisp passing if they are to find a way past Saad Al Sheeb in the Qatari goal.
Qatar’s 22-year-old winger Akram Afif has been a constant threat to opposition with his pace and trickery. Despite his young age, Afif boats of some quality European experience having plied his trade at Eupen, Villarreal and Sporting Gijon.
This Qatari forward has been in splendid goal scoring form since the start of the year. Ali was the top scorer in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup with nine goals and has been scoring for fun at club level as well, averaging a goal almost every three games for Qatari side Al-Duhail.
The 23-year-old scored a hat-trick in Qatar’s opening round demolition of Afghanistan.
India’s all-time leading goal scorer will once again be expected to perform at his best if his team is to find any joy away from home against the Asian powerhouses. Chettri has been in solid form, scoring in the previous game against Oman and was also India’s leading scorer in the Intercontinental Cup in July.
Despite being 35, the Indian captain in deceptively pacey and can be a nightmare for opposition defenders to mark.
Qatar’s number 10 has begun the World Cup qualifiers in style, bagging a goal in the 6-0 win over Afghanistan.
He has been a consistent performer for the Asian champions since the past decade or so, scoring in several big games.
The lanky winger is one of the few Indian players to have garnered some European experience in his football career, having represented the Villarreal ‘C’ team in the past.
Kuruniyan’s trickery coupled with his versatility to play anywhere in the forward line makes him a valuable asset to have in the Indian camp, something Stimac and Co. will be banking on.