It'll be a difficult game vs Qatar, says India coach Stimac
Doha, June 2, 2021
Indian football team head coach Igor Stimac on Wednesday conceded that his team would face an uphill task when it begins its bid to qualify for the 2023 Asian Cup with a match against Asian champions Qatar here on Thursday.
"We need to work a lot harder to get continuous success against better sides. It will be an extremely difficult game for us tomorrow," Stimac said at a pre-match press conference.
India had held Qatar to a goalless draw in the previous round of matches of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers in Doha in 2019.
"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," Stimac said.
"But that was a different situation. From the very first minute of our arrival [in Doha], 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," he pointed out.
Stimac stressed that having captain Sunil Chhetri back in the side is a "huge encouragement".
"Everyone knows what it means for Indian football. Each one of our players understands 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. I will try everything in my abilities to keep him playing as long as possible," he said.
India's other qualification matches are against Bangladesh on June 7 and Afghanistan on June 15.
Although it is a combined qualification tournament, combining the 2022 World Cup, India are out of contention for the game's biggest tournament.