Tough test for India

The last match of the FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup 2027 Preliminary Joint Qualifiers Round 2 is a make-or-break encounter for India, who face Asian champions Qatar away from home, on Tuesday, with a target in mind that can change the course of Indian football history.

Never before in the times gone by could India make the Round three of the World Cup qualifiers. Their hopes are still alive this time, but converting them into reality could be no less complicated than a quick solution to the Rubik’s Cube.

India have had a lukewarm qualification campaign for the World Cup thus far, with a 1-0 victory away in Kuwait giving them a lot of hope, before draws against Afghanistan (0-0 away) and Kuwait (0-0 at home), and defeats against Qatar (0-3 at home) and Afghanistan (1-2 at home) left them with a bit of a mountain to climb.

While they are still second in Group A with five points from as many matches, they must now ensure a result against the reigning champions of the AFC Asian Cup 2023, and hope for a favourable scoreline in the match between Kuwait and Afghanistan, later in the day.

If they get a draw against their hosts, the Blue Tigers will hope for the same in the game between Kuwait and Afghanistan. The equation will be simpler for India if they defeat Qatar, however, though the task of achieving that feat is anything but elementary.

India head coach Igor Stimac is banking on the mentality that he has cultivated in his players, to get them through in the game against Qatar. He said, “Over the last five years, we have created hope within the team, which was never there before. I am proud of the boys, of how confident they are when they take the pitch.