Afghanistan vs India: Preview and Prediction

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India’s dismal performance at the 2023 AFC Asian Cup raised a lot of eyebrows

A massive clash awaits the Indian national men’s football team as they take on Afghanistan in Round 2 of the 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers and the preliminary Joint Qualifiers of the AFC Asian Cup 2027. The fixture will take place in Damac Stadium in Saudi Arabia and the action will kick off from 12:30 AM IST on Friday.

Afghanistan, currently ranked 158th in the FIFA World Rankings, come into the game having last been in action in November 2023. They suffered two heavy defeats in the ongoing second round to Qatar and Kuwait and conceded 12 goals in the process. Ashley Westwood’s side is currently rock bottom in Group A with 0 points to their name.

India, on the other hand, has not enjoyed much joy either recently. They are yet to win a game in 2024, having lost 3 consecutive games in the 2024 AFC Asian Cup in January. The Blue Tigers did eke out a 0-1 win away to Kuwait in Group A back in 2023 and are currently third in the rankings with 3 points to their name.

Current Form

Afghanistan comes into the clash on the back of a 0-4 drubbing at the hands of Kuwait at home and a horrible 1-8 loss away to Qatar before that. The Lions of Khorasan have had a tumultuous time on the pitch of late, much like their national political climate. 

They have won only 2 of their last 13 international fixtures, with those coming against Mongolia in the first round of the 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers. Under former Bengaluru and Punjab manager Ashley Westwood, the Afghanis will be keen to bag their first points no matter what it takes.

India’s record in the 2024 AFC Asian Cup has been poor too. They expectedly lost 0-2 to giants Australia, but subsequent losses to Uzbekistan and Syria in the same competition dented Igor Stimac’s credentials as they came away without a point from the group stage. 

As things stand, the Blue Tigers have suffered four consecutive losses for the first time in nearly 6 years and Sunil Chhetri and co. will be desperate to address that issue.

Head to Head Record

The two sides have faced each other 11 times so far, with 7 victories to India and only one to the Afghans. India has scored 20 goals against Afghanistan over the years, and there has never been a goalless draw between the two sides. 

The last time these two sides played each other was in the third round of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers back in June 2022. The Blue Tigers registered a 2-1 win with Sunil Chhetri and Sahal Abdul Samad bagging the goals while Zubayr Amiri scored for the Lions.

Team News

It has been a tumultuous few months for the Afghani football

For Afghanistan, several key players will be missing as they have been at war with the Afghanistan Football Federation since accusing them of indulging in corruption, including match-fixing. 

18 footballers boycotted their games against Kuwait and Qatar, which included team captain, Farshad Noor, and former captain, Faysal Shayesteh. However, some key names including Zohib Islam Amiri, Omid Musawi, and Balal Arezou will be available for selection.

For India, midfielder Jeakson Singh who missed the AFC Asian Cup due to injury will be available for selection again, as will defender Anwar Ali who recently returned from injury as well. 

Sandesh Jhingan will be a big miss for India, but the likes of Jay Gupta and Imran Khan who have both made their mark in the Indian Super League and have been included in the 25-man squad will provide options to Stimac. As things stand, it is likely that Sahal Abdul Samad will also be missing the tie due to a hamstring injury he has sustained in training.

Predicted Starting XIs

Afghanistan (4-4-2): Ovays Azizi; Zoheb Islam Amiri, Sharif Mukhammad, Mahboob Hanifi, Habibulla Askar; Omid Popalzay, Mustafa Azadzoy, Jabar Sharza, Rahmat Akbari; Balal Arezou, Omid Musawi

India(4-2-3-1): Gurpeet Singh Sandhu; Nikhil Poojary, Anwar Ali, Subhasish Bose, Akash Mishra; Apuia, Jeakson Singh; Lallianzuala Chhangte, Brandon Fernandes, Naorem Mahesh Singh; Sunil Chhetri


India goes into the clash as favourites, but Afghanistan has almost been a tough opposition to beat despite the difference in FIFA Rankings. It is, however, absolutely vital for the Blue Tigers to register wins over their opposition in a bid to secure the right to play in the third round of qualifying which would be nothing short of a monumental achievement.