Blazing Qatar too hot for India as the away side wins 3-0

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Akram Afif had a field day against the Indian defenders

Qatar handed India a convincing 3-0 defeat in their second Group A match of the joint 2026 FIFA World Cup and 2027 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers, here at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneshwar. Mostafa Meshaal, Almoez Ali and Yusuf Abdurisag scored the three goals for Qatar.

After a superb 1-0 away win against Kuwait, India head coach Igor Stimac chose not to stick with the same team and made wholesale changes instead. 

Amrinder Singh, Subhashish Bose, Anirudh Thapa, Udanta Singh, and Lallianzuala Chhangte were brought into the starting XI with Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Akash Mishra, Sahal Abdul Samad, Naorem Mahesh Singh, and last match’s goalscorer Manvir Singh making way for the incoming quintet.

On the other hand, Qatar coach Carlos Queiroz made only two changes to his team which hammered Afghanistan 8-1 in their first match. Lucas Mendes came in for Yousef Aymen while Tameem Al-Abdullah replaced Ahmed Alaaeldin.

India had a horrible start to the game and could have conceded very early when Amrinder passed the ball straight to Ali, who then found Akram Afif through on goal. The Al-Sadd player had the entire goal gaping, but in some mysterious way, he managed to steer it wide from the edge of the six-yard box.

It did not matter much because the goal came just two minutes later. After Afif’s corner was cleared away, the ball was recycled by the Qatari players into the box, eventually finding its way to Meshaal. The young midfielder then came up with a precise shot to open the scoring and also get his maiden goal for his country.

The game was completely dominated by the Qataris, who should have doubled their advantage in the 20th minute as goalkeeper Amrinder came up with another atrocious missed pass, this time finding Meshaal. Having scored once already, the 22-year-old did well to launch another attempt, only for Sandesh Jhingan to head it out.

That being said, the Odisha goalkeeper did redeem himself in the 22nd minute when Afif made a darting run down the left flank and sold Poojary for all his worth before getting into the box, but his shot was brilliantly saved by Amrinder.

Another good save from the Indian custodian came at the half-hour mark of the fame. Qatar got numerous corners in this match and one of those found Meshaal completely unmarked, but his header was saved by the Indian goalkeeper.

Sunil Chhetri was kept quiet for most of the match

It took 42 minutes for India to manufacture their first opening in the game, but it was good enough to restore parity in the game, only if the finish was decent. Central defender Boualem Khouki made a poor pass and the ball found Sunil Chhetri who laid it off for Thapa and the MBSG midfielder only had the goalkeeper to beat but could not keep his shot on target.

Just like the first half, the second half saw Qatar starting with all guns blazing, which got them their second goal in the 46th minute. Khouki beat his marker Chhangte with a delightful dummy before finding Afif with a cross. The attacker’s shot was directed straight at Amrinder, but he somehow managed to fumble it and Ali did the rest by tucking the ball into an empty net.

The best chance of India to score what would have been their first-ever goal against Qatar came in the 65th minute when Suresh Singh played a brilliant lobbed ball which found Sahal completely unmarked, but despite having no pressure, the former Kerala Blasters midfielder blasted his shot wide.

In the 73rd minute, Apuia Ralte threaded a ball from a tight area for substitute Naorem Mahesh but the East Bengal forward could not keep his shot on target.

Stimac’s team paid a heavy price for all of those missed chances, as instead of reducing the deficit, they ended up conceding a third goal in the 85th minute. Mohammed Waad launched a brilliant cross from the left flank, and inside the box, Abdurisag did well to lose his marker Rahul Bheke and get his head to the end of it.

The last chance of the game fell for India in the 93rd minute, but they could not make that one count either. Rahul KP put on the afterburners to sprint through the right flank and deliver a grounded cross, which should have found its way to Mahesh. The East Bengal winger might have had an easy chance, but striker Ishan Pandita also came to meet the same cross and they ended up coming in each other’s way.With this win, Qatar is placed at the top of Group A with six points and the Asian Champions will now face Kuwait on 21st March in their next World Cup qualifier match. Meanwhile, India dropped to third after Kuwait’s huge win against Afghanistan with both sides on three points. The Blue Tigers will now face Afghanistan on 21st March when the qualifiers resume.