Qatar striker Almoez Ali (foreground) along with teammates takes part in team’s training session in Bhubaneswar on Tuesday.
Doha: Head coach Carlos Queiroz is expecting a tough challenge from hosts India as Qatar seek their second consecutive victory in Group A of the Preliminary Joint Qualification – Round 2 for the FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027 in Bhubaneswar, on Tuesday.
The reigning Asian champions got off to a flying start to their campaign in the joint qualifiers thrashing Afghanistan 8-1 at home on Thursday. Coached by Croatian Igor Stimac, India also opened the competition with a win, claiming an away 1-0 victory over Kuwait.
Qatar players attend a training session on the eve of match against India.
Qatar are favourites to top the group but Queiroz is aware that the Blue Tigers, who are unbeaten at home this year, are a force to be reckoned with in front of their fans at Kalinga Stadium.
“We are excited about this match and I realise the difficulty and significance of it for the Indian national team, especially being on their home ground,” the Qatar coach said on the eve of the match.
The former Real Madrid coach, however, reposed confidence in his players as he targets first away victory for Al Annabi in the ongoing event.
“We are evolving day by day as a team, having a good opportunity to showcase an excellent image of the squad. Our goal is to be the best on the field, as it gives us more chances to score and win,” said Queiroz.
Qatar had met India in qualifying event of the previous edition beating them 1-0 in the reverse fixture after a goalless draw in a home game.
But, India have shown significant progress in recent times with Qatar captain Hassan Al Haydos saying the team is fully focused against the hosts.
“I’ve played many times against the Indian national team, a team that is progressing day by day. We’ve turned the page on the last game and our aim is to secure three points in our second match of the qualifying stage,” he said.
With the venue set to be packed with fans, India are banking on home support as Stimac aims for a top two finish in the group to advance to the next stage of joint qualifiers.
“It’s a game, where there is nothing to lose for us but a lot to win for. So let’s go for it all out,” he said.
“We are playing at home so we need to be clever and patient. We cannot be too conservative in our approach. In the away game against Qatar, we know we will have to defend deep,” said the 56-year-old.
Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, who emerged as India’s star making plenty of fabulous saves in a goalless draw against Qatar in Doha four years ago, hoped the Blue Tigers to shine in the home match.
“Hopefully I have less work (this time). Maximum points with the least possible work are a goalkeeper’s dream. I want the players in front of me to enjoy, get on the scoresheet and give us the win,” he said.
The match will kick off at 4:30pm (Doha time) followed by the other Group A match between Afghanistan and Kuwait to be played at Al Ettifaq Club Stadium in Dammam.
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