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Indian football team struck a low point when they lost 1-2 to Afghanistan, who had not beaten them since 2013.

Indian football team went ahead against Afghanistan in the FIFA World Cup Qualifier in the 37th minute on Tuesday. A handball in the box earned the hosts a penalty.
Sunil Chhetri stepped up and converted it
for his 94th goal in his 150th appearance. In the 70th minute, Rahmat Akbari levelled things after a massive deflection. Sharif Mukhammad scored from the penalty spot in the 88th minute after Gurpreet Singh Sandhu erred. A
2-1 defeat
brought out
frustration of the fans
. Chhetri, substituted by then, buried his face in his hands as the camera panned on the legendary striker. The result further highlighting the
abject state of Indian football
. Coach Igor
Stimac remained resolute
in quest for third round of the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers. He defiantly
vowed to keep his job
despite
putting it on the line
before the fixture in Guwahati.

The defeat meant India were winless in six matches and had picked just one point from home and away games against a lower-ranked Afghanistan in the span of a week. The last time Afghanistan had beaten India in an international fixture was the 2013 SAFF Cup final. The win on Tuesday was by no means a fluke. The Afghans had been far superior than India in the second half, especially the final 20 minutes, with Blue Tigers guilty of sloppy passing, not pressing enough or forming a cohesive strategy in attack.

The reality of Afghanistan football team highlights how low the Indian football team have hit. A low not struck since maybe
India’s shock 1-2
defeat to tiny Pacific Island of Guam in 2015 in a 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier.

Reality check of the Afghanistan football team

As per coach Ashley Westwood, four of Afghanistan’s players do not currently have a club and were not involved in active football season, unlike every Indian player on the pitch.

The ones that do have clubs, ply their trade abroad for the most part. Ovays Azizi plays in Denmark’s top division (Hillerod Fodbold), Haroon Amiri in Canada (AS Blainville), Habibullah Askar in Sweden (Atvidabergs FF), Zelfy Nazary in Australia (St Albans Saints), Rahmat Akbari in Georgia (Torpedo Kutaisi), Taufee Skandari in Faroe Islands (B36 Torshavn), Jabar Sharza in Denmark (Bronshoj Boldklub), Omid Popalzay in Indonesia (PSPS Riau). Only defender Mahboob Hanifi plays in Afghanistan (for Attack Energy FC). Sharif Mukhammad and Mosawer Ahadi are without clubs.

In November
last year, 18 members decided to voice out against the Afghanistan Football Federation claiming corruption and match-fixing by chief Mohammad Yousef Kargar. It meant the Afghans struggled to put a team together for these qualifiers. The players alleged misappropriation of funds intended for investment in developing football.

In December 2023, they
urged FIFA to investigate
the country’s federation and confirmed their protest of national side will continue until Kargar was not removed from his position.

Will India qualify for the third round as Stimac has promised and targeted repeatedly? The answer to that will come in June when they face Kuwait at home and then travel to Qatar in final two World Cup qualifiers.

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