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India Vs Qatar : Wake-up call

IT WAS dubbed as a match between David and Goliath. In the run-up to the friendly against India at the Al Sadd Stadium, hosts Qatar, ranked 94th in the world, were the firm favourites. The white and maroon brigade had just completed a training camp in Europe and with the 2014 two-leg World Cup qualifier against Vietnam on the cards, Milovan Rajevac’s men were expected to streamroller India.

On the other hand, India, ranked a lowly 147th, were reeling after being forced to share the spoils in their friendly against Maldives. All that Armando Colaco and his wards did in between was having a week-long training camp in Doha which paid off as India stunned Qatar 2-1.

Perhaps, Qatar paid the price for underestimating their opponents. The hosts started off without key players Sebastian Soria and Fabio Cesar as well as Khalfan Ibrahim. India, who are coming to terms to life beyond the Bob Houghton-era, started off with their full strength team.

Egged on by a tiny flock of supporters, the Bangra Boys scored in the 16th minute when Debabrata Roy was felled by Qatar skipper Bilal Mohammed inside the box.

Star striker Sunil Chhetri converted from the spot to bring the crowd to their feet.

Mohammed Kassola tried to draw level for the hosts in the 29th, but his long-ranger was parried away by goalkeeper Subrata Paul, making his debut as India captain.

The change of ends saw both teams making drastic changes to their line-up. India changed almost the full squad barring the skipper while Qatar brought in Soria, who was later joined by Khalfan. Soria’s presence added more teeth to the attack. But it was India who celebrated again in the 72nd, with Sushil Kumar tapping in after Baljeet Sahni set him from the right flank off a cross by Harmanjot Khabra.

But India’s joy was short-lived as even before the celebrations had sunk in, Lekhwiya striker Mohammed Razzaq reduced the margin for the hosts from a swift counter-attack.

India clung on to the lead for the remainder though Qatar pressed hard, especially in the four minutes of injury time.

Rajevac was candid while admitting the defeat was more of a wake-up call ahead of the home tie against Vietnam on Saturday.

But it remains to be seen whether Qatar can recover quickly from the loss to a team ranked 53 places below them.

For India, who will face the UAE in another qualifier the same day, it was a perfect way to wind up their trip to Doha

Republished with permission  from www.dohastadiumplusqatar.com

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