Four years ago in a 2022 World Cup Qualifiers outing against Qatar, a gritty India survived a wave of attacks to hold the powerhouse of Asian football to a goalless draw in Doha. The man who guided India from the sidelines was Head Coach Igor Stimac. The Croatian would once again sit on the bench when India will cross swords on Tuesday with Qatar again in another World Cup qualifying match, this time for the 2026 edition in the US, Canada and Mexico. NEROCA FC 2–1 Namdhari FC, I-League 2023–24: Aniket Panchal’s Last-Minute Strike Fetches Orange Brigade Season’s First Win.

Stimac and his wards would take the pitch at the Kalinga Stadium here a far more confident lot than they were at the start of the campaign. The win against Kuwait in the tie brought a magical change to the entire scenario. Now there are serious expectations surrounding Sunil Chhetri and his men; a positive result against Qatar would definitely not leave anyone bewildered. Stimac agreed that India are now perfectly capable of pulling off a surprise or two, but is not ready to lower his guard.

"We have analysed Qatar from every angle and position and know very well what they are capable of in terms of speed and strength. Their defensive and offensive positions are immaculate, which they demonstrated against Afghanistan by scoring eight goals. They could well have scored eight more. It is going to be very difficult and I just want the boys to enjoy their game in the next match. The first and bigger part was accomplished by winning against Kuwait, now I want the boys not to take any pressure and show their quality against Qatar," he said. Mohammedan SC 2–1 Rajasthan United FC, I-League 2023–24: Eddie Hernandez’s Goal Helps Black Panthers to Three Consecutive Wins, Securing Top Spot in Points Table.

"It is very motivating as we defeated the best opponents for the second position. We have to be in the top two positions to go to the next round of the qualifiers so, this helps in our goal of reaching the next round. Qatar are one of the pre-tournament favourites from the group. We do not have high expectations but we know we have a chance and we have to grab that with both hands," added Stimac.

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Nov 20, 2023 12:32 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website