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World Cup 2026 Qualification AFC: Afghanistan vs India Preview, H2h & Lineups

 

Blue Tigers Seek Redemption Against Lions of Khorasan: India Eye Crucial Points in Afghanistan Clash

The Indian National Football Team travels to Abha, Saudi Arabia, on March 21st for a critical encounter against Afghanistan in the second round of the joint FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup 2027 qualifiers. Both teams are looking to bounce back from contrasting opening fixtures, making this a pivotal clash in their qualification journeys.

India Aims to Build on Winning Start

The Blue Tigers, under the guidance of head coach Igor Stimac, began their campaign with a morale-boosting 1-0 victory away against Kuwait. They'll be eager to build on this momentum and secure a positive result against Afghanistan. Captain Sunil Chhetri, India's all-time leading scorer, remains a focal point in attack, while the creativity of Sahal Abdul Samad and the pace of Brandon Fernandes will be crucial for unlocking the Afghan defense.

Afghanistan Seeks First Points After Setback

The Lions of Khorasan started their campaign with a disappointing defeat at home to Qatar. They'll be looking to avoid a second consecutive loss and get their qualification bid back on track. Experienced midfielder Faysal Shayesteh, who plays his club football in Portugal, will be a key figure for Afghanistan. Their attacking threat will likely come from the pace of Adam Stansfield, a striker born in England but opting to represent Afghanistan at international level.

Head-to-Head: India Holds the Edge

India boasts a dominant record against Afghanistan, winning seven of their 11 previous encounters. Their last meeting, a 2-1 victory for India in the 2023 AFC Asian Cup, serves as a confidence booster for the Blue Tigers. However, past performance doesn't guarantee future results, and Afghanistan will be determined to cause an upset.

Predicted Lineups:

India (4-2-3-1): Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (GK); Akash Mishra, Sandesh Jhingan, Anirudh Thapa, Rahul Bheke; Glan Martins, Amarjit Singh Kiyam; Brandon Fernandes, Sahal Abdul Samad, Udanta Singh; Sunil Chhetri (C).

Afghanistan (4-3-3): Ovays Azizi (GK); David Nazarov, Adam Najem, Zahir Zahir, Mustafa Azizi; Faysal Shayesteh (C), Noor Husain, Paulo Astan Darzi; Adam Stansfield, Zubayr Amiri, Jabar Sharafi.

A Tight Encounter Awaits

This match promises to be a closely contested affair. India will be looking to capitalize on their superior head-to-head record and exploit any weaknesses in the Afghan defense. Afghanistan, determined to avoid another defeat, will be a motivated opponent. The outcome could hinge on which team utilizes their attacking potential effectively and maintains a solid defensive structure.

Tune in on March 21st to witness this crucial encounter in the race to qualify for the World Cup and Asian Cup!