New Delhi: India’s draw against Asian champions Qatar in a World Cup qualifier last year was one of their best results. However, coach Igor Stimac does not want to put pressure on his players by promising a victory in the return leg. Igor Stimac said Qatar are a great team and no predictions can be made.
India play Qatar in Bhubaneswar October 8. They will then take on Bangladesh (away match), November 12 and Afghanistan in Kolkata November 17. India are already out of contention for a berth in the 2022 World Cup. However, they are still in the reckoning for the 2023 Asian Cup as it is a joint qualification campaign.
Thoughts of coach
The 52-year-old Stimac said promising victory against Qatar will be suicidal but his side will play not to lose the match. “With strong belief in what we do and a clear mindset, everything is possible. We are certainly not going to come out on the pitch to lose the game. But to promise victory against Asian champions would be suicidal. Qatar are a great side,” Stimac said. He is currently back home in Croatia.
“We are in the process of building up a new respectable team. I am averse to put our youngsters under extra pressure. The idea is they can enjoy their football and gain experience for the future,” added the World Cupper
International friendlies and competitive matches are unlikely to be held in the next few months. So Stimac said his players face an ‘enormous’ task ahead of their game against Qatar.
“The (ongoing) long break isn’t a concern for us. Under current circumstances there’s no possibility of organising any international friendlies. Also the leagues won’t kick-off either. So the task which we are facing before the World Cup Qualifiers is enormous,” Stimac informed.
Due to the pandemic, the domestic season has been pushed back by two months. The transfer season is set to run from August 1 to October 31. Both the Indian Super League (ISL) and I-League will begin only after that.
Importance of spectators
It is still not clear whether the upcoming matches will be played in front of spectators. The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has not said anything about it. But Stimac said playing behind closed doors against Qatar and Afghanistan will be a ‘great disadvantage’ for hosts India.
“Everyone knows how important is our supporters to us all the way back from the start. I just pray that everything settles down until October. The team looks forward to playing in front of a full house, both in Bhubaneswar, and Kolkata,” said Stimac. Incidentally the former Croatia defender was a part of the bronze winning team in 1998 World Cup.
New national camp
Stimac also said that the summoning of the national camp before the matches will be in line with government directives.
“Initially there would be tests conducted on all the (national camp) attendees. It will help us to gauge how much professional and serious they were during their stay at home during the COVID-19 period. We intend on going in for a rigorous training. We aim to focus on tactical points for the Qatar game which will be adjusted to our capacities at that stage,” Stimac informed.