Kolkata Favored as Venue for India's Crucial World Cup Qualifier

Kolkata Favored as Venue for India’s Crucial World Cup Qualifier

Igor Stimac, India’s head coach, has expressed his preference for Kolkata as the venue for the crucial World Cup qualifier against Kuwait on June 6. Stimac believes that the city’s passionate football atmosphere would provide a significant advantage for the Indian team.

The Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata has a capacity of over 66,000, and Stimac is eager to utilize the potential of a large and enthusiastic crowd to boost India’s chances of securing a berth in the third round of the 2026 qualifiers. A victory or draw against Kuwait would mark a historic achievement for India, as it would be their first-ever progression to the third round.

Stimac’s preference for Kolkata aligns with the All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) policy of prioritizing the head coach’s recommendations for national team matters. AIFF president Kalyan Chaubey has emphasized that Stimac’s suggestions will be paramount in decision-making.

While Kolkata remains the frontrunner, Hyderabad and a venue in Maharashtra are also in contention to host the match. However, Stimac has indicated that he would prefer to explore new venues only after India qualifies for the third round.

In the event that Kolkata is unable to host the game, Stimac has identified Bengaluru as an alternative venue. India recently triumphed in the SAFF Championship in Bengaluru, and Stimac believes that the city’s positive football environment would be beneficial for the team.

Stimac has also announced a long list of 35 probables for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Afghanistan on March 21 and 26. The list includes several new faces, such as Amey Ranawade, Imran Khan, Isak Vanlalruatfela, and Jay Gupta.

The probables list will be pruned after the Indian Super League pauses for the international break on March 14. Stimac has stated that he may consider adding new players to the squad for the June qualifiers, which include an away game against Qatar.

Stimac emphasized that the rebuilding process for the Indian team will begin after the 2024 Asian Cup. He believes that it is crucial to maintain continuity with the players who have been part of the squad for the past four years.