DOHA: Indian soccer coach Igor Stimac said on Wednesday that keeping Qatar in a goalless draw in the first leg of the 2022 World Cup qualifying would be a “big surprise” and that it would be extremely difficult to tame the Asian champions again on Thursday.
India had defeated mighty Qatar 0-0 here in September 2019, a result that was considered one of the best for the team in recent times. The men from Stimac will face the same opponents in the second leg of the joint World Cup and Asian qualification on Thursday.
“We are very proud of what we achieved in the last game. It was a big surprise for everyone around the world – India against Asian champions Qatar in Doha,” said Stimac at the pre-game press conference.
“But that was a different situation. From the minute we arrived, thousands of our fans gave us that extra energy that made us feel like we were playing at home.”
India is playing its home game here as the Qatari capital has been selected as the central venue for all remaining Group E games after qualifying was interrupted last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“But I reiterate that such a result can happen in one of 10 games – to get a point against Qatar. They are such a high quality team and the best team in Asia,” said Stimac.
“We have to work much harder to be consistently successful against better teams. It will be an extremely difficult game for us tomorrow.”
There was no talisman Sunil Chhteri in that 2019 game against Qatar due to a virus fever and his return will surely boost the confidence of the young Indian team.
“Everyone knows what it means for Indian Football. Each of our players understands what it means to have Sunil back on the team and on the field,” said Stimac.
“You will go out with him with more courage. It is a great pleasure to work with him. I will try everything to keep him playing as long as possible.”
“He trains as if he were 25 and plays as if he were 25. He scores goals and I am happy that he can support our players.”
After Qatar, India will face Bangladesh on June 7 and Afghanistan on June 15, with all three games being played at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in Doha.
India already wants to qualify for the Asian Cup in China in 2023.
Chhetri said India needs to focus more on itself.
“There will be no surprises when we get the kick-off against Qatar. We focus on ourselves. We have to think about what we can do and how we have to perform.”
Interestingly, Qatar coach Felix Sanchez also described it as a “difficult game against India”.
“In the first leg it was very tough and close. We dominated, but despite all the dominance, we couldn’t score. There were certain aspects that didn’t work in our last game against India. We worked on it and I hope it did on the To be able to move space, “he said.