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Gurpreet Singh Sandhu Named India Captain For World Cup Qualifying Match Against Qatar

India's first-choice goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was on Sunday named the captain of the team for the must-win 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifying match against Qatar. India will play hosts Qatar in the return fixture at Jassim bin Hamad Stadium on Tuesday. The India senior men's team landed in Doha on Saturday night for the match in which a win could pave the way for a maiden entry into the third round of World Cup qualifiers. Head coach Igor Stimac had named a 23-member squad for the fixture. Apart from Sunil Chhetri, who retired after his last game for the country against Kuwait on Thursday, defenders Amey Ranawade, Lalchungnunga and Subhasish Bose did not travel to Qatar.

Bose was released on his request because of personal reasons.

About Ranawade and Lalchungnunga, Stimac said, "I was happy to have both of them with us. We worked on various aspects of their game for the future. We had a nice talk before we released them and they know which parts of their game they need to grow for the upcoming season.

"I hope both of them will use the time ahead to improve and come back stronger." As far as the captain's armband is concerned, Stimac mentioned that it was a no-brainer to hand it to Gurpreet.

With 71 caps, the 32-year-old is the most experienced and longest-serving player in the national team after Chhetri's retirement.

"Gurpreet was one of our captains alongside Sunil and Sandesh (Jhingan) for the past five years, so naturally he is the one to take responsibility at this moment," said Stimac.

India's next opponents Qatar, who have already qualified for the third round as group-toppers, have named a largely young squad, with 21 out of their 29 players below the age of 24.

Sandhu has occasionally led the team in the