MX23RW : Tuesday, September 21 13:42:03| >> :600:1130654:1130654:
Jun 15, 2021 at 3pm UK
Azizi (75' og.)
Stimac (16'), Chinglensana Singh (34')
FT(HT: 0-0)
Zamani (81')
Islam Haroon Fakhruddin Amiri (66'), Haidary (83'), Zamani (90+4')

Preview: India vs. Afghanistan - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Tuesday's World Cup Qualifying - Asia clash between India and Afghanistan, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Following their first victory of the campaign last time out, India need just a draw from their final fixture against Afghanistan on Tuesday to assure a place in the third round of the Asian Cup qualifiers.

Though Igor Stimac's side are already out of contention to progress further in World Cup qualifying - as Group E doubles up as the second round of qualification for Qatar 2022 - they cannot afford to fail against their local rivals this week.

Match preview

India's coach Igor Stimac reacts on June 3, 2021© Reuters

Buoyed by registering their first win of the AFC World Cup Qualifying process against Bangladesh in their previous game, India now need at least a point from their final fixture, against Afghanistan, to finish third in their section.

With all this month's matches being hosted at Doha's Jassim bin Hamad Stadium, it is too late for the Indians to catch Oman and hosts Qatar - who are runaway leaders at the top of Group E - in order to reach a first-ever global finals, but they can still take a step closer to reaching the 2023 Asian Cup.

The Blue Tigers' 2-0 win over close cousins Bangladesh last Monday came as a relief for former Croatia defender Stimac, as it was their first for 11 games and enables them to tackle this week's game with a crucial one-point advantage over the Afghans.

Their next opponents, though, are a far more organised proposition than the lowly Bengal Tigers, with another all-South Asian affair coming soon after previously losing by only a solitary goal to Qatar, despite going down to 10 men in the opening half-hour.

India do have a healthy head-to-head record against the Afghans, having lost just once against them in the past and stole a 1-1 draw from the reverse fixture, thanks to Seiminlen Doungel's late equaliser in neutral Tajikistan.

Head coach Stimac will again rely heavily on the talents of playmaker Brandon Fernandes, as the FC Goa star established himself as one to watch during the 2021 AFC Champions League and has laid on an assist for three of the five goals India have scored in qualifying so far.

Afghanistan's Omid Popalzay celebrates scoring their first goal with teammates on June 11, 2021© Reuters

Since the process resumed earlier this month, though, Tuesday's nominal 'away' side, Afghanistan, have endured mixed fortunes.

After being held by Bangladesh - the nation rooted to the bottom of the group, with only two points at that stage - Anoush Dastgir's men went on to lose narrowly against a higher-ranked Oman team; leaving them needing a final-day win over India to finish third.

They did, though, put in a resolute performance against the Blue Tigers in their previous meeting and will still harbour hope of adding just a second win of the campaign.

This time, the Lions of Khorasan cannot afford to sit back - with former Heerenveen and Twente midfield maestro Faysal Shayesteh perhaps holding the key to unlocking their near neighbours' defence.

Currently sitting in fourth place, Afghanistan know that only victory will help them leapfrog India, and failure to do so will send the world's 149th-ranked nation into playoffs just to reach the third round of Asian Cup qualifying.

India World Cup Qualifying - Asia form:
  • D
  • D
  • D
  • L
  • L
  • W

India form (all competitions):
  • D
  • L
  • D
  • L
  • L
  • W

Afghanistan World Cup Qualifying - Asia form:
  • W
  • L
  • D
  • L
  • D
  • L

Afghanistan form (all competitions):
  • D
  • L
  • W
  • D
  • D
  • L

Team News

Afghanistan coach Anoush Dastgir reacts on June 11, 2021© Reuters

Coming into this crucial clash, the established forward pairing of Manvir Singh and Sunil Chhetri could be integral to India's fortunes, with the well-travelled Chhetri - scorer of both goals last time out - set to earn his 118th cap, having netted 74 goals to date.

Currently the second-highest active international goalscorer behind Cristiano Ronaldo, the diminutive frontman will again link up with Brandon Fernandes, who offers a regular supply of through-balls from midfield.

Joining his FC Goa colleague in the engine room, Glan Martins will hope to excel once more after an impressive debut in the blue of India, versus highly-rated Qatar.

Afghanistan, meanwhile, will rely on veterans such as Zohib Islam Amiri and Masih Saighani to combat the Indian attack on Tuesday.

In midfield, Faysal Shayesteh should take the 'number 10' role, with Holland-born Farshad Noor set to feature in a deeper role - and as a free agent currently, will be looking to attract a new club.

Though Amredin Sharifi is the man in possession, either Jabar Sharza and Norlla Amiri - both based in Nordic football - could start up front, with Omid Popalzay, who scored his third international goal recently, another strong contender for a place in the lineup.

India possible starting lineup:
Sandhu; Jhingan, Bose, C. Singh; Martins, Fernandes, U. Singh, Wangjam, B. Singh; M. Singh, Chhetri

Afghanistan possible starting lineup:
Azizi; Saighani, Amiri, Mukhammed, D. Najem; A. Najem, Husin; Amiri, Noor, Shayesteh; Sharifi

SM words green background

We say: India 1-0 Afghanistan

India may not have true home advantage in Doha, but are nevertheless a more convincing attacking unit than the more dogged and disciplined Afghanistan.

Certainly, evergreen striker Sunil Chhetri's experience and current good form could prove enough to edge what should be another tightly-contested contest between the two South Asian rivals - sending the Indians straight into the next stage of Asia Cup qualifying.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at are predicting under 3.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Under 3.5:data

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