There was no fairytale ending for Sunil Chhetri’s international career as India were held to a goalless draw on Kuwait in their 2026 Fifa World Cup Qualifying second round match at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata on Thursday.

Chhetri had announced that he will play his final match for India against Kuwait calling time on an international career that spanned 19 years, 151 match and 94 goals.

In an evenly-matched contest, Kuwait played spoilsport and even threatened to come away with a win to leave India’s hopes of making it to the World Cup qualifying third round hanging by a thread.

Kuwait started brightly with Mohamed Abdulah coming close to giving the away side the lead inside five minutes. Kuwait sliced through the Indian defence with a through ball to Abdulah who was denied by a superb save from Gurpreet Singh Sandhu.

Sandhu was the best Indian player on the field tonight pulling of a couple of brilliant saves to keep his side in the match.

India finally had their best chance of the match in the 12th minute as Anwar Ali rose unchallenged to meet Anirudh Thapa’s corner kick only to head it well above goal.

India fashioned two big chances down the left, but Hassan Hamdan Al-Enezi was at hand on both occasions to intercept the crosses.

Both sides had half chances but could not find the killer ball as the first half ended goalless. India coach Igor Stimac rang in the changes at half time, hauling off Thapa and Sahal Abdul Samad for Rahim Ali and Brandon Fernandes.

Ali almost made an instant impact. The Chennaiyin FC forward was through in on goal and should have opened the scoring only for Sulaiman Abdulghafoor to pull off a good save. Kuwait also had a couple of 50-50 penalty shouts turned down.

With both sides focusing on not conceding, there was a lack of big chances in a somewhat sedate second half.

As the referee blew the whistle for full time, the Indian players sunk on to their haunches, if not disappointed at not getting the win, then disheartened for not giving India’s best footballer in a generation the farewell he deserved.

After five matches, India are second in Group A having won one match, drawn two and lost two matches. Group leaders Qatar have 12 points having won all four matches. Kuwait and Afghanistan are behind with four points.

Afghanistan will take on Qatar later tonight before the final round of matches see India take on Qatar with Afghanistan facing Kuwait.