The Blue Tigers were locked to a 1-1 draw but secured progress in the 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers…

India took the lead against Afghanistan in their World Cup qualifier on Tuesday minutes after skipper Sunil Chhetri was taken off in the 69th minute.

The Blue Tigers, however, also conceded, later on, to only come back home with a draw. Goalkeeper Ovays Azizi accidentally sent the ball off Ashique Kuruniyan’s cross into his own net before substitute Hossein Zamani (82′) denied India a win.

The Blue Tigers earned a direct spot in the third round of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers on account of finishing third, behind Qatar and Oman, in Group. After the game, India assistant Venkatesh Shanmugham explained the decision to take off Chhetri when the game was goalless.

What was said?

On being quizzed on Chhetri’s substitution when the score was 0-0, Shanmughan responded, “It’s the [head] coach’s (Igor Stimac) decision. According to the game, requirement of positions change. That’s all. We were trying to score till the 90th minute, and some players were tired. It happens.”

Sunil Chhetri India Afghanistan 2022 WCQ

India had the better chances throughout the game, although Anoush Dastgir’s men were successful in frustrating their opponents on the night.

2022 WCQ vs 2018 WCQ

India ended their 2022 World Cup qualification campaign with four draws, three losses and one win from their eight matches. They scored six goals and conceded only seven and had a very good opportunity to finish the group stage with a positive goal difference – which has been achieved only twice in history – had they won the tie.

“It’s a long way to go. You can’t compare with the last time (2018 WCQ),” Shanmugham insisted. “Now there are a lot of new players and we have to concentrate to increase our level. We are in a process and the players are responding well as compared to the first game till now. We are confident as coaches.”

Venkatesh Shanmugam Assistant India

In the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, grouped alongside Iran, Oman, Turkmenistan and Guam in the second round, under former coach Stephen Constantine, India finished bottom of the group with one win and seven defeats and a goal difference of -13.

India successfully attained qualification to the 2019 AFC Asian Cup through the qualifiers, where the Blue Tigers finished bottom in the group consisting of UAE, Thailand and Bahrain in the tournament finals.

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