Kuwait, Nov 15 (PTI) The Indian men's football team will begin their quest for qualification to the 2026 FIFA World Cup as they take on Kuwait in the second round of qualifiers here on Thursday.
The match will be played at the Jaber Al-Ahmad International Stadium.
India are placed in Group A alongside Asian champions Qatar, Kuwait and Afghanistan with the top two from the group progressing to the third round of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
The top two teams from each group will also secure qualification for the 2027 AFC Asian Cup.
The Blue Tigers have never advanced to the third round of AFC's FIFA World Cup qualifiers but a changed format coupled with their impressive show in 2023, gives Igor Stimac's side a chance to create history. But a solid start to the campaign will be key given the close competition in Group A.
India are the higher-ranked team in this fixture but Kuwait proved in the SAFF Championship that they can go toe-to-toe with the Blue Tigers after the two sides played out two draws in the competition.
Sunil Chhetri and Co prevailed over Kuwait in the final on penalties but will face a different kind of challenge with Kuwait enjoying the home advantage.
The clash is also crucial as Kuwait and India are set to be the prime candidates for bagging the second spot in the group as far as FIFA rankings are concerned with Qatar being big favourites to finish on top of the table.
Thus India's games with Kuwait could go a long way in determining their destiny.
"This match has nothing to do with the games we played two months ago because a lot of things have changed since then," said Stimac at the pre-match press conference on Wednesday.
"The players had a long rest and started the season with their clubs. India and Kuwait are not the same sides, we both have had a few injured players. But that's normal in football. Teams change from month to month," he added. PTI AH AH KHS KHS