New Delhi: After a heart-breaking loss to Oman in the campaigner opener, India has been dealt a big blow in the second World Cup qualifier against Asian Champions Qatar on Tuesday as captain Sunil Chhetri is unlikely to play in the fixture.
The talismanic leader, who was India’s only goalscorer against Oman, has been suffering from high fever for the past three days, team India coach Igor Stimac has revealed.
Chhetri has also not taken part in any practice sessions in the run-up to the mammoth fixture. “He is really doubtful,” Stimac told Times of India, adding that there are two other players who are exhausted and may not feature against Qatar. Chhetri, however, has not yet been ruled out, and a final decision will only be taken ahead of the match.
Ranked 62 in the world, Qatar will start Tuesday’s Group E match against 103-ranked India as the overwhelming favourites. The last time the two sides had faced off was in 2007 in the World Cup qualifiers, when Qatar had thrashed India 6-0.
Chhetri, who scored the lone Indian goal against Oman, conceded that Tuesday's match will be the most difficult of the campaign. Qatar, the host of the 2022 tournament, has already qualified for the World Cup.
The World Cup hosts have improved by leaps and bounds in the last few years. They won the Asian Cup in the UAE earlier this year and they gave good competition to the top South American sides in the recent Copa America where they took part on invitation.
They have not lost a single game to an Asian side this year and also stretched the likes of Argentina and Brazil.
India have also shown improvement in recent times as was seen during the Asian Cup in January where they gave scares to the likes of the UAE and Bahrain and missed qualifying for the knock-out round by a whisker.
Historically, Qatar have been the dominant side, having won three out of four official matches played against India. One match ended in a draw.