Having helped India beat Kuwait in an away match thanks to a 75th-minute strike, forward Manvir Singh on Friday promised that he is expecting more triumphs in the Preliminary Joint Qualification – Round 2 for FIFA World Cup 2026 & AFC Asian Cup.
This was India’s first Pre-World Cup victory away from home in more than two decades and the three points helped them start their campaign on a bright note.
India head coach Igor Stimac, however, is not surprised by the result. “We’re not surprised with the result, but we always respect the opponents. I’m very confident about our team and our capacities. We came here to win the game. I have full trust in my boys. They’ve worked really hard in the last four and a half years.”
The Blue Tigers have played two fiercely contested matches against the same opponents in the SAFF Championship earlier this year, both ending in draws after regulation time, as the former went on to be crowned champions after defeating Kuwait in penalties in the final. While the World Cup Qualifier on Thursday, was not as heated an affair as the previous two encounters, it was a tightly contested battle.
Despite playing away from home, India seemed to have a lot of support at the Jaber Al-Ahmad International Stadium, where they stopped the hosts in their tracks.
“Kuwait have many technically skilful individual players, but they couldn’t do it today. We were very patient and we knew that they were under pressure. We also had great support from the stands like we’re playing at home,” said Stimac. “By winning here, we have a greater chance of getting the second spot in the group. We wanted Kuwait to become nervous and impatient and start putting long balls,” Stimac was quoted as saying by aiff.com.
Man of the moment Manvir Singh, who swooped into the vacuum left at the top of the Kuwait box by a retreating Sunil Chhetri, connected perfectly with a Lallianzuala Chhangte cross to smash the winner home.
“I’m really happy that I got the goal against Kuwait, but I must thank my teammates for it. It’s all because of everyone’s hard work,” said Manvir. “I am lucky to score in a big match like this. Really looking forward to scoring more in the coming matches.”
Questions were earlier raised about India’s away form ahead of the World Cup Qualification campaign after the Blue Tigers played three and lost as many in overseas matches earlier this year. In fact, the last time they won away was in the 2021 SAFF Championship final, a 3-0 victory against Nepal, in Male, Maldives. Since then, the Blue Tigers have played eight, drawn one, and lost seven away from home.
With a victory in their pocket, India next face the mighty reigning AFC Asian Cup champions Qatar in their next match, at home in Bhubaneswar.
With the Kuwait game done, the team does not have a lot of time to dwell on anything but the upcoming back and the focus has shifted to that big game, right after the final whistle on Thursday.
In a fitting manner, the team spent no time lingering around the Kuwaiti capital after their win against the posts. Instead, they hopped on the next available flight back to India, the very same day.
“It was very important to start on a winning note. I’m really proud of the team and of how we stepped up to the occasion. Kuwait are always a difficult side, and more so when you’re playing away. We put on a strong and mature performance, but we cannot celebrate too much, get carried away, or think too big of ourselves,” said India centre-back Sandesh Jhingan.
“We have another game in a few days, so it’s all about recovery. We just have to keep going. It’s just the first game. Let’s keep getting better, dreaming big, and make the work bigger than your team,” said Jhingan.