After a heart-breaking loss to Oman in the opening game of qualifiers, India held Asian Champions Qatar to a courageous 0-0 draw inspired by the heroics of Gurpreet Singh Sandhu. And in the process, they have also become the first side to not lose to Qatar in 2019.
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu who was captain on the day led from the front in the absence of Sunil Chhetri who missed out due to fever. He single-handedly stopped the Qataris from scoring to give India’s qualification chances a boost. He either caught or punched at anything that was thrown his way. The hosts had won the previous game at the same venue against Afghanistan with a 6-0 scoreline. Although it was a draw it seemed more like a victory for the Blue Tigers. Coach Igor Stimac made four changes to the side that lost to Oman & Chhetri’s absence was another big blow.
With more than 70% possession, a fair share of another statistic like shots & corners in their favor, Qatar tried everything they could to score. But the resilient Indian team held on to snatch a crucial point. While Qatar is assured of World Cup qualification by virtue of being the hosts, India plays Bangladesh next in Kolkata on 15th October.
Sunil Chhetri tweeted after the game – “Dear India, THAT is my team and THOSE are my boys! I cannot describe how proud I am at this moment. Not a big result for the table, but in terms of a fight, as big as it can get. Huge credit to the coaching staff and the dressing room”.