The Blue Tigers face the Central Asian side days after facing Qatar at home.

After hosting Asian champions Qatar at home in the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, India are all set to play Tajikistan five days later in an away friendly match.

While the venue for the friendly match between India and Tajikistan has not been announced, in an attempt to improve the cohesion between the players after the end of the Indian Super League campaign, the All India Football Federation have seen it necessary to ensure better preparation for the qualifiers in the next few months.

“Tajikistan are a respectable side in Asia and we’re looking forward to a tough challenge from them. That is going to be a great opportunity for us to assess ourselves ahead of our final two qualifiers in June,” coach Igor Stimac said. “It would be interesting to find out how much we advanced our game from our last encounter in the Intercontinental Cup.”

Tajikistan, who are clubbed with Japan, Kyrgyz Republic, Myanmar and Mongolia, having amassed seven points from five matches, are currently placed third in Group F.

Stimac announced a 43-man preliminary squad for the FIFA World Cup qualifier against Qatar on Thursday. Among the 43 players, the initial 23-man squad will be joining the camp on March 9, while the players involved in the ISL playoffs arrive a week later on March 16.

The last time India faced Tajikistan was in 2019, when they lost 4-2 in a Intercontinental Cup tie. Before that, they had faced them in 2013, where the Central Asian side had also picked up a big 3-0 victory.

However, the Blue Tigers will be aiming for a much-needed victory after last having won a game in June 2019, when they defeated Thailand in the King’s Cup. The win over Thailand was also Stimac’s only win as Indian football team head coach and pressure is increasing on him to churn out better results.a

While getting the win against Qatar will be a formidable task- despite the Blue Tigers having pulled off a historic goalless draw in the reverse fixture- the players can prove their potential against a relatively weaker side in Tajikistan.

This will also be the first time India play an international friendly game under the Croatian, who hasn’t received much time to get the side to play the kind of attractive football he’s promised since coming on board.

But now, with the Blue Tigers all set to play three games in just over 10 days from the end of March to the first week of June, he’ll want to pull out positive results to prove he can succeed at the job. With a daunting trip to Bangladesh, a positive result against Tajikistan can pump up the Blue Tigers to head to the World Cup qualifier.

“The support we enjoyed in Tajikistan was quite extraordinary and we’d love to go back there once again. Let’s win it together,” Stimac announced.