Lallianzuala Chhangte of India in action during the match between India and Afghanistan in the FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup 2027 Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 2 held at Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium, Guwahati on March 26 | Shibu Preman / AIFF

A remarkable comeback from Afghanistan in Guwahati meant that India lost its way at the FIFA World Cup 2026 Qualifiers. India went down 1-2 even as captain Sunil Chhetri scored the lone goal in his 150th match for the senior national team.

The defeat meant that more points slipped away from the Blue Tigers and their chances of reaching the third round of the Qualifiers now look slim.

For India, captain Sunil Chhetri, playing his 150th senior international match, scored through a penalty kick in the 37th minute. Putting India at the front, Chhetri continued the unique tradition of scoring at least a goal in his landmark matches – 25th, 50th, 75th, 100th, 125th and 150th for the country.

With the score at 1-0 by the hour mark, coach Igor Stimac made three changes for India. Stimac put on Anirudh Thapa, Naorem Mahesh and Lallianzuala Chhangte to refresh the attack even as Brandon Fernandes, Sunil Chhetri and an off-color Liston Colaco were substituted.

The move seemed to have unsettled the team as Afghanistan scored soon after. India looked rattled by the equaliser and seems to try everything – starting with sideways passing to find a way into the final third.

As the mayhem continued, Afghanistan kept poking at the Indian defense. And in the 88th minute, it bore fruit as Gurpreet’s goalkeeping error trying to stop Afghanistan’s forward in the box and ended up in conceding a spot kick and a yellow card.

Sharif Mukhammad then stepped up for Afghanistan to take the penalty and leave India rattled.

The final score stood at 2-1 in favour of Afghanistan.

Stimac out

As the match ended, fans celebrated with the Afghanistan team first and then slogans were raised against AIFF. “Gali Gali mein Shor hai, AIFF chor hai,” echoed the stadium even as fans protested the poor result of the team. “Stimac out,” was among other slogans.

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