Kalinga Stadium to host India vs Qatar World Cup qualifier

The state of the pitch at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar has been a cause of concern in this edition of the Indian Super League.

After AIFF officials met with the national team coach Igor Stimac this week, the Bhubaneswar was picked as the venue for India's FIFA World Cup qualifier tie against Qatar.   -  File photo

Bhubaneswar’s Kalinga Stadium is set to host Qatar in India’s FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifier Group E match on March 26. 

Kolkata, Kochi, Bengaluru and Ahmedabad were also in the running to host the Asian champion next month. After the All India Football Federation (AIFF) officials met with the national team coach Igor Stimac this week, Bhubaneswar was zeroed in on as the venue for the return fixture.

“We have awarded the match to Bhubaneswar,” AIFF general secretary Kushal Das told Sportstar. “This is a place which has promoted football and the coach also wanted to play here.” 

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However, the state of the pitch at the Kalinga Stadium, which is also the home of Indian Super League (ISL) side Odisha FC, has been a cause of concern for several away teams.

Chennaiyin FC coach Owen Coyle blasted the pitch on offer after his team’s 2-0 loss in January. “I don’t think that field should be allowed to play in the ISL at least till it settles down,” he said. 

Odisha boss Josep Gombau also admitted that the pitch conditions weren’t of the highest quality. Das said, “There will be a remedial measure. We will have a meeting with the Odisha government after February 24 to address the matter.” 

No decision is taken yet on when the preliminary squad will be announced.  In the reverse fixture in September, India played out a goalless draw in Doha. Its chances of progressing into the next round of the qualifiers remain bleak having taken just three points from its five matches.

With three matches remaining, India will aim to finish third to get a direct entry into the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers

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