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Saturday, January 29, 2022

India coach anticipates ‘extremely difficult’ World Cup qualifier match against Qatar


Thursday’s match between Qatar and India will determine whether India will qualify for the 2022 World Cup.

India’s football coach Igor Stimac said on Wednesday that holding Qatar to a goalless draw in the first-leg of the 2022 World Cup Qualifiers was a “big surprise” and Thursday’s match against the “best team in Asia” will be extremely difficult.

India held reigning Asian Champions Qatar to a 0-0 draw in September 2019 at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium, a result considered as historic for the Asian team.

However, the two teams will go head to head once more on Thursday for the second-leg in Doha to determine whether India will qualify for the joint World Cup and Asian Cup qualifiers.

“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,” the Indian coach said in the pre-match press conference.

“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,” he added. 

“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,” Stimac said.

“We need to work a lot harder to get continuous success against better sides. It will be an extremely difficult game for us tomorrow.”

India will be playing its home match in the Qatari capital, which became the centralised venue for all the remaining Group E matches after the qualifiers were stopped last year due to the global health crisis.

Read also: How to get your hands on 2022 World Cup, 2023 Asian Cup qualifier tickets

In the 2019 game against Qatar, the Indian team missed top-scorer Sunil Chhteri due to sickness with his return in the second match expected to be a “huge encouragement,”
according to the team coach. 

“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,” the coach stated.

“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,” he noted. 

“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,” Chhetri said. 

Following Thursday’s match, India will play against Bangladesh on June 7 and Afghanistan on June 15 with all three matches to be held at the same stadium in Doha.

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