India will take inspiration from their famous goalless draw against Asian champions Qatar four years ago when they face the same opponents in a 2026 FIFA World Cup second round qualifiers match in Bhubaneswar on Tuesday.
Their confidence boosted after the 1-0 away win against Kuwait on November 16, India will hope to give a tough fight to Qatar, though the fancied visiting side will start as firm favourites.
India had surprised the football fraternity when they soaked up waves of attacks to hold Qatar 0-0 on September 10, 2019 in their 2022 World Cup second round qualifiers in Doha. Qatar were then in red-hot form, having won the Asia Cup title in early 2019. They, however, won 1-0 in the reverse fixture in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.
Talismanic India captain Sunil Chhetri was absent in that match as he was indisposed and he would be eager to show his class at the Kalinga Stadium on Tuesday.
Ranked 61 in the world, Qatar are coming off a 8-1 thrashing of Afghanistan in their earlier match in Doha on November 16, and they would be looking to make the record of the drawn game in 2019 straight with a dominating win against the 102nd-ranked India.
Star striker Almoez Ali, who struck four times against Afghanistan the other day and was the top-scorer for Qatar at the 2019 Asian Cup with nine goals, would be the man to watch out for as he can create trouble at the Indian defence, which looked weak in the absence of Anwar Ali.
Sandhu would remember that he and India were lucky in Doha in 2019 as Ali was denied by the upright and the Indian custodian will have to marshal the defence, along with veteran Sandesh Jhinghan.
Head coach Igor Stimac could not use the services of both Ali and defensive midfielder Jeakson Singh in the Kuwait match due to injuries, and it was a blow to the plans of the Croatian tactician though India won the match.
Ali had suffered an ankle injury in Mohun Bagan's AFC Cup match against Bashundhara Kings of Bangladesh last month. Kerala Blasters player Jeakson suffered a shoulder injury in an Indian Super League match against Mumbai City FC and he had undergone a successful surgery early this month.
Midfield mainstay Sahal Abdul Samad and Manvir Singh, who scored the lone goal for India against Kuwait, were there in Doha four years ago and they would look to make life difficult for the Qataris, more so after the duo's good outing in Kuwait City.
India are placed in Group A alongside Qatar, Kuwait and Afghanistan with the top two from the group progressing to the third round of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
The top two teams from each group will also secure qualification to the 2027 AFC Asian Cup.
The Blue Tigers have never advanced to the third round of AFC's FIFA World Cup qualifiers but they now have a high chance of doing so after their 1-0 win over Kuwait.
India vs Qatar LIVE streaming
The 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifier match between India and Qatar will be played on November 21, at 7pm IST at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar.
It will be telecast on Sports18 1, Sports 18 1HD, and Sports18 3.
It can also be live streamed on the Jio Cinema app and website.