Double Asian champions Qatar to play Kuwait in World Cup 2026 qualifier today

Double Asian champions Qatar to play Kuwait in World Cup 2026 qualifier today

QLNews
By QLNews

Double Asian champions Qatar will play Kuwait twice in six days in the preliminary joint qualification – Round 2 for the FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia.

Qatar will play Kuwait in the first of their double headers at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium in Doha today. They will then travel to Kuwait for the reverse fixture on March 26.

Wins over the two legs will help Qatar seal qualification into the next round of qualification for the competitions.

Fresh from defending their AFC Asian Cup title on home soil last month, Marquez Lopez’s side will start as firm favorites.

Qatar, who have six points and are three points clear at the top in Group A, are expected to garner an easy win over second-placed Kuwait (three) and book their spot early.

Should Kuwait win, they will pull level with Qatar and the reverse fixture will become a thrilling affair. India, on three, and Afghanistan (zero) are the other teams in the group.

Qatar began their quest for a first-ever World Cup qualification under Carlos Queiroz in November by comfortably beating India and Afghanistan.

However, Lopez soon replaced Queiroz and led them to their second AFC Asian Cup title in a row.

“The team has a winning mentality, and we’ll give our best to win against Kuwait. After winning the AFC Asian Cup title, the team is highly motivated and all players want to continue their successful journey. It’ll be a difficult match against Kuwait, but we’re aiming to qualify for the World Cup as well as the Asian Cup. Like all our opponents, we’ll respect Kuwait and will be fully focused,” the former Al Wakrah coach said on Wednesday.

Lopez felt the joint qualifiers would pose a ‘different challenge and motivation’ to his team than the Asian Cup.

“It’s difficult for a champion side to maintain the same level, but we’ll give our best to maintain our form. These qualifiers have brought us a different challenge and motivation, and the prize of success will also be different. All our focus is on qualifying for these two major tournaments,” Lopez said.

When Qatari players boot up for the game against Kuwait, they will be led to the ground by a new captain after 33-year-old Hassan Al Haydos recently announced his retirement from the international game.

Al Haydos appeared in a record 183 matches for Qatar and captained them during the 2019 and 2023 AFC Asian Cups, as well as Qatar’s first appearance at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Lopez hailed Al Haydos as a ‘role model’ for his squad’s young players, thanking him for his 14-year-long services to the national team.

“We’re grateful for everything Al Haydos has done for Qatar football. He was a very important player on and off the field, and a role model for youngsters. We wish him success in what comes next in his career,” he said.

Meanwhile, India will also aim for three points to keep pace at the top, with Igor Stimac’s side having kicked off their campaign with a 1-0 win over Kuwait. That was followed by a 3-0 defeat against Qatar. India will need maximum points from their double-header against Afghanistan if they are to stay in the race for a top-two finish which will earn them a spot in the third round of FIFA World Cup qualifying.

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