The tactician also felt the Blue Tigers must look at realistic chances in the upcoming games.
The Indian national football team will resume their 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers campaign on June 3. The Blue Tigers play the hosts of the 2022 World Cup Qatar at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium on Thursday. The previous fixture between these two sides ended in a goalless stalemate, which was an iconic achievement for the Blue Tigers. Ahead of the game, India head coach Igor Stimac spoke in the pre-match press conference.
On previous fixture
Igor spoke about India’s valiant performance against Qatar where they held the Asian champions to a goalless draw in 2019.
“Obviously proud of the 0-0 result last time,” the Croatian began.
“Small India holding the Asian champions to a draw at their home ground. All the credit to the players for that game. They survived waves and waves of attacks from the Qatari team.
“We have three games, we need to look at this tournament as a three-game package. Most important for us is to not lose nerves in the first game, go through it without injuries and think about realistic chances,” he added.
Sunil Chhetri’s professionalism
Igor Stimac also heaped praise on captain Sunil Chhetri and his service to the country.
“When you say Sunil Chhetri’s name, everyone knows what it means for Indian football. I’ll do everything in my ability to keep him as long as possible. He is 36 but trains, plays & scores like he’s 25. He can encourage our team, the players. They feel more confident when he’s there,” he quipped.
“His importance in this team is unbelievable. Not just on the pitch but outside the pitch also. It’s a great pleasure to have the opportunity of working with him.”
Reflection on performances so far
The 53-year-old admitted that India’s performance until now has been less than satisfactory. The target was the second spot, however, it is now out of reach due to disappointing results like drawing against Bangladesh.
“Our ambition when this (the qualifiers) started was to get the second spot in the group. We knew if we could surprise Oman in the first game, we could get some chances of thinking about the second spot. That did not happen obviously. The home game result against Bangladesh was not good for us,” Igor Stimac remarked.
“Whatever the position is at the end of the qualifiers, we need to qualify for the final stages of the AFC Asian Cup,” he expressed.
Challenges to squad planning
The Croatian explained how the COVID-19 has affected the squad developmental plans of the national team.
“We started developing the team two years ago but the process was interrupted by the pandemic. Hopefully, this pandemic will stop soon, everything can go back to normal and we can plan properly. The aim is the same, to create a team that will be competitive for the next qualifiers for the World Cup.”
Chhetri on what to expect
Sunil Chhetri admitted that they are lucky to be playing in Qatar considering the pandemic situation in India.
“Really pleased to be here especially given the fact of what’s going on in the country. Everyone is very optimistic. We start against the hosts and we have a lot of videos of them. They played many games recently in Europe and South America.
“On the other hand, we have to focus on our own thing, what we have to do. The good part with Qatar is, there will not be a lot of surprises because we have seen a lot of videos (of them). We just have to go there and do our best,” the 36-year-old continued.
“After our performance in the game against Qatar, we didn’t do justice in the next games. There are no chances to go back and fix things but we should have done better,” he concluded.