FIFA World Cup: In a highly anticipated clash, the Indian men’s football team is set to face Kuwait in their opening match of the 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers on Thursday, November 16. The stakes are high for the Blue Tigers as they look to bounce back from recent struggles and secure a positive start to their qualifying campaign.
Igor Stimac’s men faced a rough patch in recent months, with disappointing performances in the King’s Cup and Merdeka Tournament. However, a glimmer of hope arose in July when India clinched victory against Kuwait in the SAFF Championship 2023 final. The memorable win, decided by a penalty shootout at Bengaluru’s Sree Kanteerava Stadium, showcased the team’s potential for resilience.
Drawn into Group A alongside football powerhouses Qatar, Kuwait, and Afghanistan, India faces a challenging path to secure a spot in the third round of the Asia qualifiers. With the 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar as clear favorites, India, ranked 102nd, will compete with Kuwait (ranked 136) and Afghanistan (ranked 154) for the coveted second spot, led by the experienced Sunil Chhetri.
The encounter promises to be intense, with all teams playing each other twice in a double round-robin format. The top two teams from the group will advance to the next round, heightening the significance of each fixture.
Importantly, these matches serve a dual purpose as qualifiers for the 2027 AFC Asian Cup. In Group A, alongside reigning champions Qatar and Afghanistan, the top two teams will not only advance to the final round of World Cup qualification but also secure their spot in the prestigious continental showpiece set to take place in Saudi Arabia.
Reflecting on the team’s preparation, coach Igor Stimac emphasized, “We had a good preparation. We trained for five days in Dubai, adjusting to everything that we are expecting. How you open the qualifiers, with zero, one, or three points, can make a huge difference.”
Brandon Fernandes, a key midfielder who played a pivotal role with three assists in seven matches during the 2022 World Cup Qualifiers, echoed the coach’s sentiments. “We expect a very difficult match. It’s important that we have a good start in these qualifiers, and for that, we need to stay committed and give everything on the pitch,” shared the 29-year-old.
Live Streaming and Broadcast Details: Where and When to Watch
The showdown between India and Kuwait will take place at Jaber Al-Ahmad International Stadium, kicking off at 10 PM IST. Fans can catch the action live on Sony Ten Sports 2. For those unable to tune in via traditional television, SonyLiv’s application and website offer online streaming options for all of India’s World Cup qualifier games.
India’s Squad Overview for World Cup Qualifiers:
Igor Stimac has selected a formidable squad for the qualifiers, combining experience with fresh talent:
Goalkeepers: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Amrinder Singh, Vishal Kaith.
Defenders: Sandesh Jhingan, Mehtab Singh, Lalchungnunga, Rahul Bheke, Nikhil Poojary, Akash Mishra, Roshan Singh Naorem, Subhasish Bose.
Midfielders: Suresh Singh Wangjam, Anirudh Thapa, Lalengmawia Apuia, Brandon Fernandes, Rohit Kumar, Sahal Abdul Samad, Liston Colaco, Naorem Mahesh Singh, Udanta Singh.
Forwards: Sunil Chhetri, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Manvir Singh, Ishan Pandita, Rahul KP.
The stakes are high for India, and the team’s performance in these qualifiers will not only determine their World Cup fate but also showcase the progress and potential of Indian football on the global stage. Football enthusiasts across the nation are eagerly awaiting the kick-off, hoping for a thrilling start to India’s journey in the 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers.