With a little under a week to go for India’s first match in the World Cup Qatar 2022 qualifiers against Asian champions Qatar, Indian national football team head coach Igor Stimac has highlighted the importance of making up for lost time. “Our initial plan was to start the camp from mid-April. When that was not possible, we tried to start on May 2 in Kolkata. We also had plans to play a few friendlies. But then the pandemic struck, and everything was cancelled — due to nobody’s fault of course,” said Stimac as quoted by the-aiff.com.
“We have been able to arrange a few days of the camp finally in Doha. It’s not ideal, but it is what it is, and we must get on with making up for the lost time.”
With Asian champions Qatar leading Group E, followed by Oman, securing a top spot may be out of reach, but the Blue Tigers’ Asian dream is very much alive, as they aim to secure a third-placed finish.
“I am very confident that at the end of the journey, we will be in the AFC Asian Cup. Never mind the group position right now, because the actual situation is far from the present,” informed Stimac.
“Qatar is a fully prepared team, Bangladesh finished their season on May 10, and 23 out of the 28 Afghan players are playing in Europe or USA with their season in full swing.
“Our team’s situation is different, but I can promise you that we will give it everything. The boys will give each atom of energy in their bodies to answer all doubts on the pitch. We will do everything to qualify for the AFC Asian Cup. Only then, will our proper work start,” he continued.
“We are aware that Qatar is the future host, and they have great facilities for their teams. Perhaps we may have expected more in terms of that, but we appreciate the efforts by Qatar to organise (these matches). I’d once again like to convey a big thank you to the Qatari Government,” he stated.
India is set to play their last three qualifying matches in Doha, Qatar (due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic) against the hosts Qatar (June 3), Bangladesh (June 7), and Afghanistan (June 15).
Stimac believes that his players are motivated enough as they know the situation that everyone is currently facing.
“Motivating them is not a problem. They are all good professionals and I do not have any problem in keeping them motivated,” said Stimac.
“They are well aware of the situation and are working hard with full commitment on the training pitch with a few days left for the Qualifiers.
“They know that they are representing their country, and they will do everything possible to defend the India colours.”
As the times and situations all around have gotten difficult due to the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the Blue Tigers view their glass as half full.
“People are suffering everywhere due to the pandemic, and the boys see this as an opportunity to make everyone in India happy with their performances. We need to take this chance with both hands and bring smiles to all the faces,” Stimac observed.
Unlike the last match against Qatar 18 months back and the two friendlies against Oman and UAE earlier this year, Stimac has the services of iconic striker Sunil Chhetri at his disposal.
“Having Sunil back is great for each one of us. As I speak, we need to be clever with Sunil every day. The Afghanistan and Bangladesh games are more important (in terms of India’s position in the group),” he said.
“We will have a clearer picture of the condition of the player in a few days.”
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