Image Credits: @AIFF
National Team Head Coach Igor Stimac stated that India’s goalless draw against Qatar in the first-leg of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Qualifiers came as a “big surprise” to the footballing fraternity.
Speaking at the official pre-match press conference a day prior to India’s match against the Asian champions, Stimac maintained: “We are very proud of what we achieved in the last game. That was a big surprise to everyone all over the world – India holding Asian champions Qatar in Doha. But that was a different situation. From the very first minute of our arrival there were thousands of our supporters giving us that extra energy making us feel that we were playing at home.”
“But I reiterate that such a result can happen in one out of 10 games – to get a point against Qatar. They are such a quality team and the best team in Asia. We need to work a lot harder to get continuous success against better sides. It will be an extremely difficult game for us tomorrow (Thursday)."
Interestingly enough, Felix Sanchez, the Head Coach of Qatar also maintained that for his team, “it will be a difficult game against India”.
“In the first leg, it was very tough and close. We did dominate but we were not able to score despite all the domination. There were certain aspects that didn’t work in our last game against India. We have worked on them and hope to implement it on the pitch,” he said.
“We will give our best, and the boys are motivated. Each game has a different history. Sometimes you look at the result, sometimes you look at the manner in which we played. It will be a mistake to expect an easy game. We are not making that mistake.”
Stimac stressed that having captain Sunil Chhetri back in the side is a “huge encouragement” to all the younger players in the squad.
“Everyone knows what it means for Indian Football. Each one of our players understand what it means to have Sunil back in the team and on the pitch with them.”
“They will go out with more courage with him around. It’s a great pleasure working with him. I will try everything in my abilities to keep him playing as long as possible. He trains in every training session as if he is 25 and plays as if he is 25. He is scoring goals and I am happy that he can encourage our players,” the Head Coach added.
“We are happy to be here. We are aware about how much effort the All India Football Federation has put together to get us here with the help of the Government of Qatar and the Qatar Football Association for the Qualifiers. The situation is different from the last time we were here but we need to accept the situation and deal with it,” Stimac averred.
“What is most important for us is not to lose nerves in the first game, go through it without any injuries and then think about the next two games against Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Most of our players played their last game at the end of February, and it’s not easy,” Stimac expressed.
Meanwhile, Sunil opined that the Blue Tigers need to focus more on themselves as they are aware of what they are supposed to face when the two teams kick-off tomorrow (June 3).
“There won’t be any surprises as to what we will be facing when it kicks-off against Qatar. We are focusing on ourselves. We need to think about what we can do, and the manner we need to perform,” Sunil stated.