World Cup 2022 qualifiers: Igor Stimac – India on the right path

The Indian boss mentioned that India will take time to improve and that Oman and Qatar were always favourites to qualify to the next round…

After three consecutive draws in the ongoing World Cup 2022 qualifying round, Igor Stimac’s India face Oman in a tough away fixture on Tuesday in Muscat.

The Blue Tigers started their campaign on a bright note as they fought valiantly against Oman at home and then managed a goalless draw against Asian champions Qatar in Doha.

But in their last two matches against relatively easier opponents, India failed to live up to the expectations and managed draws courtesy of late equalisers.

On facing Oman in the second leg, the Croatian coach said, “In football whenever you play you play to win it and that is why we are here. It is not that we are disrespecting the Oman team. Oman are a very good and strong team. We saw their strength in the first leg in Guwahati a few months back. They played really good football. I just hope tomorrow we create a lot of excitement, we play good football.”

Stimac reiterated that Indian football is undergoing a rebuilding process and Qatar and Oman are favourites to qualify from Group E to the next round.

Stimac said, “We all knew Qatar and Oman are favourites in this group. I joined the team at the end of May with a clear task of restructuring the team, improving certain aspects and make sure that in future India participates continuously in the final stages of the Asian Cup and hopefully prepare ourselves for the World Cup 2026.

“Last time at the World Cup qualifiers, India suffered seven losses and just one win. Now we have only one loss after four games. Yes, we have three draws but we have improved a lot.”

When asked how the coach prepares his team for an away fixture, the Blue Tigers boss said, “For me, there isn’t much difference. Every time I prepare my team it is to win the game. The tactics may change according to opposition like (it may be) more offensive or defensive.

“But what is making us happy is that we created a great environment for football in India which was much needed. We played our two homes games in front of sold-out stadiums. It is our responsibility to promote football in our country. It will take time, investment, patience. We are on the right path.

“I know some of our supporters are creating over expectations especially after winning one point against Qatar but that is not realistic. I even told this after the Qatar game that let us keep quite. In football, you cannot do anything overnight.”

ATK defender Anas Edathodika had to return home just before the Afghanistan tie due to the demise of his mother. Stimac mentioned that Anas has re-joined the team and vehemently praised his work ethics.

“We had some injury problems just before the game against Afghanistan. One of our player’s (Anas Edathodika) mother passed away and he had to return to India. He came back yesterday to serve his country and I am so happy to have players like him,” said the Croat.  

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