Blue Tigers during a training session in Guwahati | AIFF

The Indian team swiftly sprung into action upon their arrival in Guwahati after a long journey from Saudi Arabia on March 23 ahead of their FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup 2027 Preliminary Joint Qualification match against Afghanistan.

Set to face Afghanistan at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on March 26, India enters their fourth match of the qualifiers in Group A. The Blue Tigers currently hold second place in the group with four points from three games, edging out Kuwait by one point from an equal number of matches.

Interestingly, the upcoming match on March 26 could mark the 150th international appearance for India’s captain, Sunil Chhetri. India’s head coach, Igor Stimac, expressed hope that Chhetri would make the occasion memorable with his performance.

“Being chosen to represent your country is a dream of millions of kids when they start kicking the ball, and to do it 150 times is possible only for the greatest of all times,” remarked Stimac. “We hope our captain will make it memorable on March 26 for all Indian fans and himself.”

The Afghanistan team also arrived in Guwahati on March 23 and conducted their training session separately in the same city.

Upon their arrival at the Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport, members of the Indian Football Team were presented with the traditional ‘gamosa’ of Assam and were greeted with a guard of honour by local school children as they made their way to the team bus.

Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, the goalkeeper for India who maintained a clean sheet in the team’s last encounter against Afghanistan, expressed his admiration for the warm reception received in the Gateway to the Northeast.

“It was heartening to see the overwhelming support and love for Indian Football from all the people who gathered at the airport to welcome us. I hope we can reciprocate their kindness with a positive result against Afghanistan, giving them something to cheer about,” remarked Gurpreet.

Reflecting on their last match in Guwahati five years ago, which ended in a 1-2 defeat against Oman in the FIFA World Cup 2022 and AFC Asian Cup 2023 Preliminary Joint Qualifiers, Gurpreet recalled the tremendous support from the locals.

“It was a memorable game despite the result. With coach Igor Stimac, we had just embarked on our journey, and I recall the overwhelming support we received. The people of Guwahati stood behind us, and we hope for a similar fervent backing this time around,” Gurpreet concluded.

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