FIFA WC 2026 qualifier: Same old problem of missed goals, rues Stimac

India, however, stay in the running after a goalless draw with Afghanistan

Indian forwards created a number of chances against the sturdy Afghans but failed to score (photo: AIFF)
Indian forwards created a number of chances against the sturdy Afghans but failed to score (photo: AIFF)

NH Sports Bureau

It was an all-too-familiar story of the Indian football team messing up in front of the rival goalmouth which saw them settle for a goalless draw against Afghanistan in their FIFA World Cup 2026 qualification second round in the neutral venue of Abha, Saudi Arabia late on Thursday night. The Blue Tigers still managed to climb to second spot in Group A to keep alive their hopes of a historic entry to the third round of the qualifiers.

Sunil Chhetri & Co. now have four points from three matches, followed by Kuwait, who are on three points from as many games. Qatar lead the group with nine points from as many games while Afghanistan are last in the table with a point.

‘’The problem which is following us for many, many years, it’s a well-known problem in our football’’, remarked an irked chief coach Igor Stimac after the match. In less than a week, the two teams will face off again in India’s home game in Guwahati on 26 March, but the Croat is clearly worried at the team’s goal-drought which dogged their campaign in Asian Cup finals in Doha as well.

‘’The match was interesting. Obviously, I’m not disappointed with the result at the end because we created three, four really good chances. We couldn’t score, which is obvious,’’ the Croat told the media.

When questioned about areas for improvement, Stimac emphasized the need to strengthen the midfield and attacking play. ‘’Few things we need to improve, obviously, because simple things we complicated today in the offensive plan and I’m not happy about that. We need to be better in passing, better in creating chances and absolutely much better in attacking the box when the crosses are coming from the wing,’’ he observed.

Despite the challenges, Stimac remained optimistic about the team’s prospects. ‘’I would say that we were much closer to win this game with the chances we created. But obviously, the same old problem is following us’’, he added.

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