Sunil Chhetri returns to the mix as India announced a 28-member squad for the men’s football team’s upcoming World Cup qualifiers in Qatar.

India are set to play Qatar, Afghanistan and Bangladesh to complete their World Cup qualifying campaign and all three matches will all be held in Qatar due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The squad leaves for Doha on Wednesday evening, reported PTI. The team will have a preparatory camp inside a bio-bubble in Doha before its first match on June 3 against hosts Qatar.

India are already out of World Cup qualification with three points from five matches but there’s still plenty to play as far as the qualification for AFC Asian Cup is concerned. India need to finish in the third spot to gain a direct entry into the final stage of AFC Asian Cup qualification. Failure to do so will mean they will have to go through a playoff to get there.

Group E as it stands

QATAR 6 5 1 0 16 1 15 16
OMAN 5 4 0 1 11 4 7 12
AFGHANISTAN 5 1 1 3 2 11 -9 4
INDIA 5 0 3 2 3 5 -2 3
BANGLADESH 5 0 1 4 2 13 -11 1

Head coach Igor Stimac has made several changes to the squad that played in the international friendlies in UAE in March. Goalkeeper Subhashish Roy Chowdhury, defenders Ashutosh Mehta, Mandar Rao Dessai, Mashoor Shereef, midfielders Jeakson Singh, Raynier Fernandes, Halicharan Narzary and forward Hitesh Sharma have missed out.

The Croatian has brought back a few experienced faces as Rahul Bheke, Subhashish Bose, Brandon Fernandes and Pronay Halder make the squad.

Chhetri, who missed the friendlies earlier in the season due to Covid-19 infection, is also back in the squad for the World Cup qualifiers.

As per the health parameters required to travel to Qatar, all the travelling players and staff carry with them negative test results from the RT-PCR tests conducted in the last 48 hours. All of them were also in isolation in the capital under the bio bubble at the team hotel from May 15 onward.

The Croatian felt it was not the ideal way of preparing for games of such high magnitude.

“It’s not an ideal situation as we move ahead to the Qualifiers in June. Due to the pandemic, our National Camp which was slated to begin in Kolkata at the beginning of May had to get cancelled. The pandemic also robbed us of a friendly match in Dubai,” the head coach said.

“However, we understand the magnitude of the situation, and it will be intense sessions in Doha to raise the tempo and try to get ready for the matches which starts with the one against the Asian Champions Qatar in Doha,” Stimac added.

Captain Chhetri expressed delight after returning to the national fold and expects three tough matches for the Blue Tigers.

“It’s such a relief to be back in the National team squad – after all, home is where the heart is. Personally, I am eagerly looking forward to being in Doha. The last time I was in Doha, I couldn’t be a part of the match against Qatar owing to illness,” Chhetri said.

“The matches in June are extremely tough and we need to take them one at a time. Given the fact that we don’t have much time, the preparatory camp will add immense value helping all to gel together, and strike that chord ahead of the first match,” he added.

India are scheduled to play Asian Champions Qatar on June 3, Bangladesh on June 7, and Afghanistan on June 15 with all three matches to be played at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium, Doha.


Goalkeepers: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Amrinder Singh, Dheeraj Singh.

Defenders: Pritam Kotal, Rahul Bheke, Narender Gehlot, Chinglensana Singh, Sandesh Jhingan, Adil Khan, Akash Mishra, Subhashish Bose.

Midfielders: Udanta Singh, Brandon Fernandes, Liston Colaco, Rowllin Borges, Glan Martins, Anirudh Thapa, Pronoy Halder, Suresh Singh, Lalengmawia Ralte, Abdul Sahal, Yasir Mohammad, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Bipin Singh, Ashique Kuruniyan.

Forwards: Ishan Pandita, Sunil Chhetri, Manvir Singh.

India’s fixtures:
June 3: India vs Qatar (10.30pm IST).

June 7: Bangladesh vs India (7.30pm IST).

June 15: India vs Afghanistan (7.30pm IST).

— (To be broadcast live on Star Sports)