Spirited India robbed of World Cup progress by linesman’s shocker

Left: The controversial goal of Qatar. Right: Lallianzuala Chhangte who scored the opener for India. Source: AIFF

Despite an extraordinary display, India’s World Cup 2026 dreams were dashed by an appalling decision. Having led 1-0 through a superb Lallianzuala Chhangte goal, India lost 2-1 to a second-string Qatar side, who were joined in the third round of Asian World Cup qualifying by Kuwait, 1-0 winners against Afghanistan.                                     

India delivered a commendable performance against back-to-back Asian Champions Qatar at the Jasim Bin Hamad Stadium. But Qatar’s two late goals turned the group on its head, though the first should never have stood.  


As they kicked off a new era without Sunil Chhetri, who had led the line for much of the past two decades, India faced a Qatari side with an average age of 23. No Akram Afif, no Hassan Al-Haydos, no Almoez Ali. Despite the young home team’s efforts to make life difficult for the Blue Tigers throughout the game, India held their ground.

In the 12th minute, Qatar’s Ahmed Al-Rawi almost scored, but Mehtab Singh heroically blocked the shot on the goal line, preventing the opener. For the first 15 minutes, Qatar exerted immense pressure on India’s defence, but the backline remained resilient and gradually increased their tempo. Maintaining discipline in positioning and marking, India’s forward line kept pressing high, eventually reaping the benefits before half-time.

In the 37th minute, Brandon Fernandes unintentionally found Chhangte inside the box, and the Mizo forward slotted the ball into the net, making it 1-0 for the visitors. The Blue Tigers maintained their intensity in the second half until a controversial decision in the 75th minute changed the game’s course. Gurpreet Singh Sandhu saved a header from Yousef Aymen, and the ball clearly went out of play, as evident from screenshots flooding social media. However, the whistle never came. Ibrahim Al-Hassan back-heeled the ball that had gone out of play to Aymen, who scored, despite protests from the Indian players.

Adding salt to the wound, Al-Rawi scored in the 85th minute with a curling shot, beating Gurpreet to find the right corner of the net. That goal was the killer blow, especially with Kuwait also scoring in their game.