FIFA World Cup Qualifier: Afghanistan beat India 2-1 in Sunil Chhetri’s 150th game


Sharif Mukhammad scored a late penalty to help Afghanistan beat India 2-1 in the FIFA World Cup 2026 qualifier match at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati. Sunil Chhetri scored his 94th international goal in his 150th appearance for the Indian men’s football team but Rahmat Akbari scored in the 70th minute to equalise for Afghanistan before Mukhammad scored a late penalty to spoil the Indian captain’s milestone match.

Within the 37th minute of the game, Chhetri yet again proved himself as the ultimate and the only attacking answer of the Indian side. The goal came from a penalty kick awarded after Afghanistan’s Haroon Amiri committed a handball violation. Manvir received the ball on the right flank and crossed to Chhetri, but Amiri’s hand was intercepted, resulting in the penalty. Sunil Chhetri confidently converted the penalty, sending the ball past Azizi despite his dive to the right, energizing the crowd at Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium.

Despite the overall dissapointment, Chhetri’s goal against Afghanistan saw him close in on the international goal-tally of Argentinian superstar, Lionel Messi. His goal gave India the much-needed boost in this crucial tie, only for their dismal midfield set up to slip up the match at the death.

INDIA’S LACKLUSTRE DEFENSIVE APPROACH

India’s inability to see through a game, despite grabbing a lead, deals a horror-blow to their World Cup dreams yet again. India manager Igor Stimac fielded Lalengmawia Ralte, Brandon Fernandes and Jeakson Singh in their midfield setup for the game, which turned out to be the building block of their failures in the match.

Upon grabbing the lead, India switched into a complete defensive mode, which showed a lack of eagerness from the side to extend their advantage in the match for good. Miss-passes along with rare forward passes was one of the main highlights of India’s game for the majority of the second half.

Having slipped out on their lead, it was only after the introduction of Anirudh Thapa and Lallinzuala Chhangte in the 68th minute of the game when India started to make purposeful forward runs.

Published By:

Saurabh Kumar

Published On:

Mar 26, 2024

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