India Need To Perform Well In Home Match Against Kuwait, Says Coach Igor Stimac

India had lost all their three group matches and did not score any goal in their disastrous Asian Cup campaign in Qatar last month

Photo: File
India National Football Team Coach Igor Stimac stressed the need to perform well against Kuwait in the June fixture. Photo: File

India's home match against Kuwait on June 6 could be among head coach Igor Stimac's most important matches at the helm of affairs as the country seeks to make it to the third round of the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers for the first time in its history. (More Football news)

Stimac is believed to have told the technical committee of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) in a virtual meeting on Saturday that even if India beats Afghanistan twice (home and away) in March, it will still be difficult to qualify for the third round if the team does not do well against Kuwait.

"He said the Kuwait match at home in June will be the most important upcoming match if India is to qualify for the third round. He explained his reasoning to the members," according to a source.

The online meeting was held to review the performance of the Indian team at the AFC Asian Cup and chart the way forward.

India had lost all their three group matches and did not score any goal in their disastrous Asian Cup campaign in Qatar last month.

He had promised after the Asian Cup debacle that he would lead the country to its maiden third round of the FIFA World Cup qualification.

India are placed in Group A in the second round of the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualification, along with Qatar, Kuwait, and Afghanistan. The top two teams from the group will progress to the third round of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

The Blue Tigers have never advanced to the third round of AFC's FIFA World Cup qualifiers but they are now in with a chance after beating Kuwait 1-0 in Kuwait City in November last year.

"The mission to beat Kuwait in the away game and get three points has been accomplished. Now the two games against Afghanistan and the home match against Kuwait will be extremely crucial," Stimac said in an AIFF release.

India, who later lost to Qatar 0-3 in Bhubaneswar, are in joint second spot with Kuwait in group standings after playing two matches each.

India play Afghanistan on March 21 in Dushanbe, Tajikistan in their away match (since Afghanistan cannot host international matches because of the country's volatile situation), before facing the same opponents in Guwahati on March 26 (home match).

The Technical Committee was informed by AIFF Acting Secretary General Satyanarayan that apart from Hyderabad, three state associations -- Maharashtra, Odisha and West Bengal -- have expressed interest in hosting the June 6 match against Kuwait.

The AIFF is yet to arrive at a final decision on the venue for the Kuwait match.

The meeting was also attended by Technical Committee chairperson IM Vijayan, members Pinky Bompal Magar, Shabbir Ali, Victor Amalraj, Climax Lawrence, Santosh Singh, Chief Technical Officer Vincent Subramaniam and Technical Director Sabir Pasha.

"I would like to say to the head coach that the results in Qatar are now a matter of the past. Our main focus should be on the matches ahead, in the March and June FIFA windows and that we should get the best possible results from them," said Vijayan.

Satyanarayan said: "We've seen the national team go through highs and lows over the last year, but we can be proud of our players and the effort that they put in every time they take the pitch. However, the area we should concentrate on is the game at the grassroots level, so that our national team becomes stronger in the future.”