India vs Kuwait: Preview and Prediction

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Salt Lake will bid an emotional adieu to Captain Chhetri

June 6th will be a hugely memorable occasion for Indian football as India takes on Kuwait at the iconic Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Kirirangan in Kolkata from 7 PM IST. It will be captain Sunil Chhetri’s final game for the Blue Tigers as the boys take the field with a bid to seek entry into the third round of the FIFA World Cup 2026 Qualifiers.

With four points to their tally and currently ranked second in Group A, there is a lot to play for apart from giving Chhetri the farewell he truly deserves. A direct qualification to the 2027 AFC Asian Cup in Saudi Arabia is also on the line with only one point separating India, Afghanistan, and Kuwait in the second, third and fourth place. 

Igor Stimac’s boys have endured a miserable 2024 so far – being ousted ignominiously at the AFC Asian Cup group stage and having failed to secure a win against a lower-ranked Afghanistan in March.

Kuwait is also not in great form and is winless in 2024 so far. The Rui Bento-coached side is stranded at the bottom of Group A with only 3 points so far. However, a win in Kolkata could completely flip the tide for them and given the threat they pose in transitions and turnovers, it would be foolish to take them lightly.

Current Form

India came into the game having last won a football match against the same team back in November 2023. They have lost successive games to Qatar, Australia, Uzbekistan and Syria on the bounce, followed by a 0-0 draw against Afghanistan away and then a shocking 1-2 loss to them at home in Guwahati. Captain Chhetri scored from the spot in that clash but a lot of questions were asked of Stimac and his dismal record at the helm of the Blue Tigers of late.

Kuwait’s last victory also came in November 2023 when they got the better of Afghanistan, but it has been a free fall since then. Losses to Libya, Uganda and Qatar have dented their confidence and it will take a mammoth fight for them to silence a 60,000-odd Kolkata crowd baying for blood and cheering for the Men In Blue.

Head to Head Record

The two sides have faced each other 6 times, with India garnering 3 wins and 2 losses thus far. Interestingly, this clash will be India’s 4th against Kuwait in a year as they faced twice in the 2023 SAFF Cup as well, with India eking out a 5-4 victory on penalties after the game ended 1-1 in regulation time.

Manvir Singh made the difference for India the last time the two sides faced each other with Kuwait’s Faisal Zaid seeing a red card towards the end of the game.

Team News

A lot of eyes will be on whether Stimac fields Brandon Fernandes or not

A host of new faces were called up for India’s training camp in Bhubaneswar ahead of the mammoth clash, which also included two prolific goal scorers from the I-League Lalrinzuala Lalbianka and David Lalhlasanga. Others included Inter Kashi’s Edmund Laldrinka and Real Kashmir’s defender Muhammad Hammad. However, it remains to be seen if Stimac fields any of the fresher faces in the squad.

Another particular bone of contention has been his inability to get the best out of Brandon Fernandes, one of the team’s best midfielders who was in brilliant form in this season’s Indian Super League. Defender Sandesh Jhingan will continue to miss out due to his injury, but other than that no notable absentees for India currently.

Forward Shabaib Al-Khaldi will be a big miss for Kuwait, and incidentally, he was the one who bagged the goal for his side in the 2023 SAFF Cup final.

Predicted Starting XIs

India (4-5-1): Amrinder Singh; Nikhil Poojary, Rahul Bheke, Anwar Ali, Subhasish Bose; Lallianzuala Chhangte, Suresh Singh Wangjam, Jeakson Singh, Brandon Fernandes, Manvir Singh; Sunil Chhetri.

Kuwait (4-4-2): Abdulrahman Kameel; Azbi Shehab, Khalid El Ebrahim, Hassan Hamdan Al-Enezi, Sultan Al Enezi; Mohsen Ghareeb, Fahad Al Hajeri, Redha Abujabarah, Mohammad Daham; Mubarak Al Faneni, Aqeel Al Hazeem.


Although India’s form has been poor of late, there is no doubt that the Salt Lake Stadium has been a fortress for them. The Blue Tigers last lost here in August 2006 (0-3 to Saudi Arabia) and with the crowd cheering them full throttle, it is hard to see India as anything but favourites for this tie. 

Coupled with the fact that they will want Sunil Chhetri to bow out on a high and that a historic entry into the third round awaits the Men In Blue, anything short of a victory will also haunt the Indian football faithful for a long, long time.