New Delhi, November 18: Riding on Manvir Singh's 75th-minute goal, India opened its FIFA World Cup 2026 AFC qualifiers second-round campaign with a 1-0 victory against hosts Kuwait at the Jaber Al-Ahmad International Stadium in Kuwait City.
102nd in the FIFA Rankings, India was confined to their own half early on in the match as the world No. 136 Kuwait kept ball possession. However, as the game progressed, the Indian midfielders pressed higher and created a few chances for the forwards.
Forward Sahal Abdul Samad created the first big chance for India in the 18th minute but was cleared inside the box before he could shoot. Seconds later, Nikhil Poojary crossed onto an unmarked Sunil Chhetri, whose shot flew just over the crossbar.
In the 27th minute, Mahesh Naorem, created a shooting opportunity from a freekick which Akash Mishra failed to direct towards the Kuwait goal. The hosts, meanwhile, also failed to convert m a long-range effort towards the end of the half.
The Indian defence, marshalled by Sandesh Jhingan, was resilient in the first half, not allowing the Kuwait attackers to penetrate into the penalty box.
Kuwait kicked off the second half with greater endeavour as Fahad Alhajeri headed over the crossbar from a freekick by Mohammad Abdullah. Despite their consistent efforts, the precision in the final third, however, was lacking.
Suresh Singh received the first promising shooting opportunity for India in the second half after Lallianzuala Chhangte’s enterprising ball recovery in midfield. The Indian midfielder shot from range in the 71st minute but it flew off target.
The deadlock, meanwhile, was finally broken by winger Manvir Singh in the 75th minute. He smashed a half-volley in Abd Al Rahman Kameel’s goal from Chhangte’s cross to give the visitors the lead.
Kuwait ramped up their attacking play in the final minutes of the match. However, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, aided by a sturdy backline, kept a clean sheet in Kuwait City. Faizal Zaid Al-Harbi received a red card in stoppage time as Kuwait finished the match with 10 players.
India, thus, registered its first victory against Kuwait this year. They had beaten Kuwait 5-4 on penalties, after a 1-1 draw at full time, in the 2023 SAFF Championship final in July.
India will take on world No. 61 Qatar on Tuesday, November 21, in the second Group A match at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar. India is placed alongside Asian champions Qatar, Kuwait and Afghanistan in Group A. The four teams will play each other in the home and away round-robin format.
The top two teams in the group will make the FIFA World Cup AFC qualifiers third round while also earning a direct entry into the 2027 AFC Asian Cup.