The Indian men’s football team began their 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers journey with an impressive 1-0 victory over Kuwait at the Jaber Al-Ahmad International Stadium in Kuwait City. After a cautious first half, Manvir Singh’s second-half goal ensured all three points for the Blue Tigers on Thursday, November 16.
India’s head coach Igor Stimac surprisingly dropped two of his regular starters, Lallianzuala Chhangte and Anirudh Thapa, from the starting XI. Rahul Bheke partnered with Sandesh Jhingan at the back, while Manvir Singh replaced Chhangte on the right flank. Furthermore, Mumbai City FC midfielder Apuia Ralte earned his first start since June, joining Suresh Singh Wangjam in the pivot.
The hosts started on the front foot, while the Blue Tigers were content to sit back, looking to hit their opponents on the break. It was the visitors, though, who had the first clear-cut opportunity of the game. Sunil Chhetri narrowly missed the target with a shot from the edge of the penalty box around the 20th-minute mark.
India’s attacks were largely orchestrated from the flanks, with Manvir Singh particularly looking dangerous on the break. Kuwait, on the other hand, appeared more composed but struggled to create anything of significance.
The chances were few and far between the teams in the opening half-hour of the game. The first half ultimately ended in a cagey fashion, with a 0-0 scoreline, as both teams managed just one shot on target.
India score in the second half to clinch a vital victory over Kuwait
Kuwait’s head coach Rui Bento made three changes at the start of the second half to improve the intensity and performance level of his side. Midfielders Ahmad Zanki, Hamad Al-Qallaf, and Zaid Al-Harbi came in place of Mobarak Al-Faneni, Mohsen Ghareeb, and Reda Hani.
Consequently, they came out of the break firing, creating their first clear-cut chance just one minute into the half. A set-piece caused India all sorts of problems, but Fahad Al-Hajeri, who was unmarked, directed his close-range header wide. Despite Kuwait’s attacking start, the Blue Tigers stood resolute at the back, as they consistently cleared away the danger posed by Kuwait.
The game eventually began opening up, and with Chhangte coming in around the hour mark, India began posing problems from both the flanks. Their pressure ultimately paid off, as the Blue Tigers took the lead with 15 minutes of regulation time remaining.
Following a quick move from the back, Chhangte, who made a run in behind the full-back, delivered a pin-point cross into the penalty area. The two wingers combined, as Manvir Singh beat his marker before slotting the ball into the bottom corner using his weak foot.
After scoring the goal, India showed resilience at the back to secure a pivotal 1-0 win against Kuwait away from home. Their next challenge awaits them against Qatar at the Kalinga Stadium on November 21, while Kuwait is set to face Afghanistan on the same day.