AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers: The dream and hope of the Indian football team to play in the Asian Cup for the second time in a row still remains intact. Qualifier matches are being played for the tournament these days and in one such qualifier on Saturday, the Indian team has strengthened its position by defeating Afghanistan 2-1 in a tough match.
Captain Sunil Chhetri’s tremendous free-kick and Sahal Abdul Samad’s goal scored in injury time helped India win this match played in Kolkata. The Indian team is now very close to qualification and they need only 1 point from their last match.
Chhetri scored the first goal
This match, played on Saturday, June 11, in Kolkata’s Vivekananda Yuva Bharati Kridangan, came in its color in the last minutes itself. In the match, both the teams had to wait a long time for the goal. The score was tied at 0-0 till the 85th minute of the match. Then in the 86th minute, India got a free-kick. This free-kick, which came about 20 yards from Afghanistan’s goal, was fired by veteran Indian captain Chhetri in the goal with a right footed shot and gave India a 1-0 lead. It was Chhetri’s 83rd goal to score both goals in the 2-0 win against Cambodia.
Samad snatched victory in the last minute
However, this lead of India did not last long and after just two minutes, Afghanistan took advantage of India’s poor defending. Afghanistan’s Zubair Amiri put the ball inside the Indian goal in the 88th minute with a tremendous header and brought the team to a 1-1 draw. It looked like both the teams would only need to work from 1-1 point, but in the 92nd minute, Ashiq Kurunian smacked the defenders into Afghanistan’s box with a fine pass to Samad, who made some room for himself and hit the Afghan goalkeeper’s right. Trapping the ball in the goal from the side, gave India victory.
Team India need only 1 point
With this win, India have 6 points in Group D from 2 matches and the team is second only to Hong Kong due to goal difference. Hong Kong also have 6 points, but they have hit one goal more than India. Now on Tuesday, June 14, the last match of the group is between these two teams. If India makes this match at least a draw, then it will qualify for next year’s tournament. All the winners of the 6 groups of qualifiers will get entry into the tournament, while out of the 6 teams placed second, only the best 5 teams will get tickets. If India is not able to get this one point, then it will have to depend on the results of other groups.