The Indian national team is back in action as the world cup qualifiers are about to resume. India finds itself in 4th place in group E with only 3 points from 5 matches. Qatar and Oman have crossed double figures in terms of points, and Afghanistan is just a point above India. Bangladesh is currently bottom of the group with only a solitary point. India will aim to collect maximum points with only three games left, but it will be a tough challenge, of course, as they are set to lock horns with the reigning Asian Champions Qatar in their first encounter on June 3rd.
The last time India met Qatar was in the first round of qualifiers, where they managed to earn a historic draw. Qatar’s ceaseless attacks were thwarted precisely by Indian custodian Gurpreet Singh Sandhu who was on top of his game. India vs Qatar match was supposed to be held in India, but unfortunately, due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, it will be held in Qatar’s capital Doha again.
The Indian national team will play three of their remaining fixtures against Qatar, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh in the Jassim Bin Hamad stadium in Doha. In this article, we are focusing on group leaders Qatar. Ranked 58th in the world, Qatar is a force to be reckoned with. They are currently unbeaten and are leading the group with 16 points. Qatar has been in a massive transitional phase since they were elected as the host nation for the 2022 world cup. They have progressed rapidly in recent years, and they showcased their might in front of the world by winning the Asian Cup in 2019. Unlike India, Qatar face quality opponents regularly and have been part of tournaments like the Copa America.
QATAR’S LAST 5 RESULTS
South Korea 2-1 Qatar
Qatar 5-0 Bangladesh
Qatar 1-0 Luxembourg
Qatar 2-1 Azerbaijan
Qatar 1-1 Ireland
WON-3 DRAW-1 LOST-1
PLAYER’S TO WATCH OUT FOR
The 24-year-old Al Sadd winger is arguably Qatar’s best player. The former Sporting Gijon and Villarreal attacker is extremely skilful and has an electrifying pace. Afif came through Al-Sadd’s youth setup and has had the opportunity to be with some of Spain’s top clubs like Villarreal and Sevilla. Afif only appeared in 11 matches for Al-Sadd because of an injury this season, but still, he played a crucial role in their invincible campaign by scoring 5 goals and providing 8 assists. He missed the last fixture against India, but he looks set to start against the Blue Tigers this time. Even at 24, Akram Afif is a seasoned international, having already made 66 appearances for the Qatar national team.
The Qatari skipper was outstanding against India the last time these two sides met. Al-Haydos put massive pressure on the Indian defence by constantly testing Gurpreet and making menacing runs into the box. Capable of scoring and setting up his teammates, Al-Haydos is crucial to Qatar’s system. At the age of 30, Al-Haydos is his countries most capped player of all time with 138 appearances. Like Akram Afif, Hassan Al-Haydos also came through Al-Sadd’s youth setup and is a club legend with 84 goals in 261 appearances. This season he played 18 games for Al-Sadd, where he scored 2 goals and made 9 assists. Al-Haydos will be determined to lead his team to victory this time around and to continue their unbeaten run in group E.
Striker Almoez Ali has been Qatar’s most trusted marksmen in recent years. The talismanic centre forward has scored 29 goals for Qatar in 61 games and 29 goals in 91 games for his club side Al-Duhail. Breaking into the scene through the Aspire Academy, Almoez Ali was quickly roped in by Al-Duhail’s reserve side. In 2014 Almoez Ali was sent to Aspire’s partner club KAS Eupen in Belgium. He has also played in Austria and Spain for LASK and CyD Leonesa, respectively.
He came back to Al-Duhail in 2016 and has been with the club ever since. This season Almoez Ali scored 6 goals and provided 4 assists in 20 games for Al-Duhail and is also in great form for the National team by scoring 3 goals in the last 5 matches. The Indian defence will have their work cut out to stop Almoez from scoring.
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