India crash out of 2026 World Cup qualifying

June 12 – In an indictment of Igor Stimac’s management, India crashed out of the 2026 World Cup qualifiers after a 2-1 defeat against Qatar ended their hopes of making the third round group stages. 

India enjoyed a half-time lead after Lallianzuala Chhangte’s strike, but they conceded twice in the second half against a second-string Qatari side to crash out of contention for the 2026 finals. None of the Qatari eleven that inflicted a 3-0 defeat on the Blue Tigers in Bhubaneswar at the start of the qualifiers made the hosts’ starting lineup.

Qatar’s equaliser was controversial after the ball had gone out of touch.

“Qatar were lucky tonight, especially because they came back from 0-1 with an irregular goal. I can confirm that now because I have seen the replay. The whole ball was out of play and the goal was given. It shouldn’t be happening in today’s football because that goal changed everything in this game,” said Stimac (pictured).

“It could’ve happened to Qatar today and I would say the same. I’m not looking for an excuse. I feel sad that when you have 23 boys working really hard and living the dream, to achieve something, and that dream is killed because we didn’t stop such things from happening.”

Ultimately, India however didn’t recover from underwhelming results against both Kuwait and Afghanistan in the campaign. They needed all three points in Doha to progress from the final round of qualifiers, a major target of manager Stimac.

India have never reached the third round of qualifying and Stimac last December downplayed the importance of the Asian Cup to focus on the qualifiers. That approach has backfired and may leave the Croatian in an untenable position.

At the Asian Cup, India exited in the group stages, losing all three matches against Australia, Syria and Uzbekistan. After a good first-half performance against the Socceroos, India’s tournament simply fell apart.

India have never been World Cup finalists. FIFA’s flagship competition, hosted by the United States, Mexico and Canada, will see 48 participants for the first time. Asia will send at least eight representatives but the world’s second biggest nation will not be one of them.

Contact the writer of this story at moc.l1721322039labto1721322039ofdlr1721322039owedi1721322039sni@i1721322039tnuk.1721322039ardni1721322039mas1721322039

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