The match will be played at a neutral venue in Tajikistan.

India are staged to play their fourth encounter of the FIFA World Cup 2022 Asian Qualifiers on November 14 against  Afghanistan. Igor Stimac spoke to media ahead of the game. Here are the excerpts:

On the visit to Dushanbe and the game against Afghanistan

Igor Stimac said, “It’s my first time in your country. I love going around, seeing different places and different people in your country. We have a very difficult game in front of us. We both faced Qatar and Bangladesh. I think both India and Afghanistan team are of very similar quality. We see Afghanistan team as a physical side, strong side with a good composure; with some of the players gaining experience in European countries.”

“Of course, it’s not the top leagues, but playing in Europe it gives you extra quality and that’s what I see in this Afghanistan team when I watch their games. They have composure, they have stamina and it’s not going to be an easy game for us, of course. We know how important the game is. We need as much as we could to rest the players.

“Because most of our players played their last game on 10th and since then we were travelling to come here. This morning, very early at about 4 AM we reached here. So, the most important thing for us is to rest the players in the next 40 hours and get ready for the game. We are very happy that people back in India are supporting us with a lot of passion now.”

“They have great expectations about Indian football now. We will do our best to make them proud.”

On if the quality of the team has increased under him

A journalist tried to put forth the view that India played better football in the AFC Asian Cup earlier this year than they are doing now. He asked Stimac about the reason for the same. The Indian coach replied, “If I understood the question well, the gentleman is saying that India played better in the Asian Cup than they are doing now. I don’t agree to that. India played a great game against Thailand in the opening of the Asian Cup. After that, they needed one point to qualify, but they lost the next two games against the UAE and Bahrain. Since then, we took a totally different approach to football.”

“Before I took over the team, India was playing six players at the back, going for the long ball and trying to attack with four players. I was brought into the position to change that. We are in the process of building up a new Indian team for the future and we are concentrating on the World Cup 2026.”

Tactical Preview: Afghanistan vs India

“We are building a whole new team. It’s a long process and it’s a difficult one. We have shown in the games up until now, that we can play against Oman, which was a fantastic game.”

“Because we should have been 3-1 up against Oman in the first half, this is a very good start. After that, we went to Qatar and kept a clean-sheet. I think that the Afghanistan team knows best about how difficult that is, against the Asian champions.”

“The last game wasn’t at that level like the first two, because we were in a position to completely attack and generate chances against a Bangladesh side that played with 10 players in front of their box. The numbers were good. We had 74% of possession. 17 shots on goal, some really good chances and about our execution plan I was happy. But, I was not happy with letting Bangladesh have two clear chances. That was the bad part of our game and we are working on solving that issue now.”

“India is playing better football now,  is trying to create chances and is not going ahead without any ideas, with just long balls ahead. We are trying to be a composed team with good shape and good discipline.”

Igor Stimac also hailed the arrival of Pronay Holder back to the squad and rued the injury to Sandesh Jhingan. The match will commence tomorrow at 7:30 PM IST at the Central Republican Stadium, Tajikistan.