GUWAHATI: The Indian senior national team begins its joint qualifying campaign for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 against Oman at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on Thursday (September 5, 2019) and at the pre-match press conference on Wednesday (September 4, 2019), head coach Igor Stimac stated that his team is up ready and “well prepared” to meet the challenge.
“The preparations for the game went really well and as a coach, I am happy. This will be our third campaign and I am happy with the improvement in the team in terms of the understanding levels of the players and their fitness levels. We are well concentrated and well prepared,” he said.
The last meeting between the two teams was in a friendly match in December last year that ended in a goalless draw. Talking about the upcoming task, the Croatian mentioned that the team will look to be “strong and organized” on the pitch.
He added: “Our aim for tomorrow will be to be strong and organized. In our previous games, we have shown that we can handle good teams and play organized for the full 90 minutes. We may have conceded a few goals but we have shown that we can play better against better opponents.”
Talismanic forward Sunil Chhetri, who has scored 71 goals in 111 appearances for the Blue Tigers, stated that there is a “pulse of excitement” in the team with just one day to go for the crucial game.
“There is a great eagerness in the team and one really feel the pulse of excitement among the boys. We are really looking forward to the game. We had a great training camp and everyone in the team is fit and hungry. The players are gelling well and responding to what the coach expects from them,” Sunil mentioned.
In 2015, it was Sunil who scored the only goal for India in a 2-1 loss against Oman in a qualifying match for FIFA World Cup Russia 2018. Referring to that match, Sunil said, “We weren’t great in that game and conceded very early. We lost 2-1 and had a goal chalked off for offside as well. We certainly hope we do well this time around. All the boys are optimistic, especially with a lot of fans expected at the stadium.”
Coach Stimac also stressed upon the need to be “wise and concentrated” while playing in such matches.
He said, “We respect all opponents and what is important is to have a strong belief in the dressing room. No opponent is unbeatable and we need to be wise and concentrated in our game.”
Sunil also touched upon how all players, despite a majority of them being young, are “well aware” of what is expected of them and how he prefers to let his actions do the talking.
“It is a young team, but I don’t have to talk to them once. Each player is well aware of what is expected of him and the coach speaks whatever is needed. I just have to be a good example for the players and will keep doing so whenever I am here,” he concluded.
After facing Oman, the Blue Tigers will travel to Doha to face Qatar in their next FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifier on September 10, 2019. Afghanistan and Bangladesh are the other two teams that make up Group E.