World Cup Qualifiers: India held 0-0 by Kuwait as Sunil Chhetri bids farewell to national team

Kolkata: Fans put up a banner for India's National Football team captain Sunil Chhetri during the preliminary joint qualification round 2 match for the FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup between India and Kuwait at Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata on Thursday, June 6, 2024. (Photo: IANS/Kuntal Chakrabarty)

Kolkata: Fans put up a banner for India's National Football team captain Sunil Chhetri during the preliminary joint qualification round 2 match for the FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup between India and Kuwait at Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata on Thursday, June 6, 2024. (Photo: IANS/Kuntal Chakrabarty)

Kolkata, June 6 (IANS) India and Kuwait battled it all out for ninety minutes but the game ended goalless, handing a major setback to the home in their hopes to qualify for the third round of the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers at the Salt Lake Stadium here on Thursday. The team will faces an uphill task of beating Qatar in a must-win final game in a few days.

With this being the final match of the iconic skipper, the crowd showed up in numbers as 58,291 was the official attendance at the Salt Lake Stadium.

The first half saw both teams share equal possession, but it was Kuwait who had created the better chances but a great job between the sticks by Gurpreet Singh saw the team remain level. India had a nervy start to the game with a few misplaced possessions but slowly grew into their passes and gained rhythm but were unable to create any significant chances.

Igor Stimac decided to change things up as he brought on Brandon Fernandes and Rahim Ali after the first half in place of Anirudh Thapa and Sahal Abdul Samad. Ali almost became the hero minutes after being introduced as he was through on goal but a good save by Sulmain Abdulghafoor denied the number 20.

Controversy brewed in the 75th minute when Anwar Ali brought down Alsumaini in the box but a penalty was not awarded to Kuwait. It was a solid debut by 22-year-old Jay Gupta who was solid at the left-back position keeping the tricky Eid Alrashidi in check for most of the game.

Edmund Lalrindika became the first I-League player to make his national team debut under Stimac when he was subbed on for Jay Gupta showcasing the attacking intent of the team but his debut was overshadowed by a fight that broke out between him and Sami Alsanea which saw both players get a yellow card.

Chhetri took his time following the full-time whistle and thanked the fans for their tremendous support.

The Indian national team stood and clapped for one of the finest players to play for the Blue Tigers as the 39-year-old lapped the stadium, taking in the feeling one last time and was given a guard of honour, which saw the skipper cry.

India will now face Qatar on June 11 in their final game of the second round of qualifiers.