Kuwait seeks redemption and qualification against India

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Kuwaiti players hold their final training session.

KOLKATA, June 5: Kuwait faces India at 4:30 in Kolkata for the fifth round of the joint Asian qualifiers for the 2026 World Cup, to be held in the USA, Mexico, and Canada, and the 2027 Asian Cup in Saudi Arabia.

Group A also includes Qatar and Afghanistan, who will play at 7:00 pm at Abdullah bin Jalawi Sports City Stadium in Al-Hofuf, Saudi Arabia. Qatar has already secured the first qualification spot for the decisive stage of the World Cup qualifiers and a place in the Asian Cup finals, leading the group with a perfect score of 12 points. Kuwait with 3 points is competing with India and Afghanistan, each with 4 points, for the second qualification spot.

Al-Azraq aims to achieve several goals in this match: to regain its reputation after a 1-0 loss to India at Jaber Al-Ahmad International Stadium last November, to stay in the running for qualification, and to break a year-long winless streak against India, including a draw and a penalty shootout loss in the Indian International Championship last June.

Preparation for this match included a week-long training camp in Bangkok before arriving. Rui Pinto shared his optimism for a good match in a press conference yesterday. Pinto stated, “Both teams are vying for a ticket to advance to the next stage of the qualifiers.”

He added, “We’ve faced the Indian national team three times in the past year, resulting in two draws and one loss. Technically, these matches have been evenly balanced.” Pinto emphasized the recent development and progress of football in Kuwait, expressing confidence in their preparations and the players’ ability to deliver a satisfactory result.

Meanwhile, Bandar Buresli also highlighted the team’s readiness, stating that all players are prepared to perform at a convincing level to achieve a positive result. He anticipates a strong and competitive match from both sides.

India is eight points behind leading Qatar and second place in Group A, marginally ahead of Afghanistan on goal difference, and takes on last-place Kuwait in Kolkata. A win would take India close to the last stage of continental qualifying for the first time.

“It’s a huge game,” India coach Igor Stimac said. “The careers of the boys can change with this game. I want them to enjoy and do their best in the game.”

It is also the last match for Sunil Chhetri, who will retire after his 151st international appearance. Of the players still active, only Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have scored more international goals than Chhetri’s 94.

‘Every training that I do with the national team, I’m just going to enjoy it,’ the 39-year-old Chhetri said when he announced his retirement last month. “I don’t feel that pressure. The game demands pressure. Against Kuwait, we need the three points to qualify for the third round. But strangely, I don’t feel the pressure.”

Khaled El Anzi

Al-Seyassah/Arab Times Staff

This news has been read 508 times!

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