Manvir Singh’s 75th-minute strike gave India a good start to their Fifa World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup 2027 Joint Qualification Round 2 campaign, as they defeated hosts Kuwait 1-0 at the Jaber Al-Ahmad International Stadium, Kuwait City, on Thursday.

What looked like a sedate contest for the majority of the 90-minute period came to life when the lanky striker parked himself at the right place in the rival box to convert a Lallianzuala Chhangte cross from the left with a neat and powerful left-footer to which Kuwait custodian Abdul Rahman Marzouq had no answer.

Kuwait were dealt a blow in the last few minutes of the match when substitute Faisal Alharbi was sent off after picking up a second yellow card. India managed to hold on for the win, which could well become a crucial factor in the team’s attempt to get into the next round of the World Cup campaign for the first time in history.

India now travel to Bhubaneswar to play their next match in the group against mighty Qatar, undoubtedly the toughest side in the four-team contest.

Only a few months ago, India and Kuwait battled it out hard twice in the SAFF Championships in Bengaluru with India emerging the victors through a penalty-shootout in the final.

Thursday’s win was perhaps more creditable. It came on Kuwait’s home turf and within the regulation period in which India certainly had more say in the proceedings.

If India didn’t create enough positive chances despite having the upper hand, the hosts were also in no position to take any credit away from India as they could hardly penetrate the Indian defence. India’s goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu had a rather peaceful day in the office; the attacks he had to negotiate with were mostly without sting.

India, though far more enterprising, failed to open the Kuwait defence. Yet, in the first half, India were doing the right things on the right, with Nikhil Poojary and Manvir Singh being the chief operators. One such foray saw Poojary floating the ball inside the box for captain Sunil Chhetri to volley just over the bar. It was perhaps the best chance India had in the match, apart from Singh’s goal.