Indian football coach Igor Stimac on Saturday said that his team has nothing to fear in its second World Cup qualifier against Asian champions Qatar despite coming off a painful 1-2 defeat in the campaign opener at home.
India let in two late goals — in the 82nd and 90th minute — after taking an early lead against Oman in Guwahati on Thursday to begin their campaign on a losing note.
India are playing their second game on Tuesday.
The team reached here on Saturday ahead of the match against Qatar, who had won the Asian Cup in January and are expected to pose a tougher challenge to the visitors.
“As soon as the Oman match ended, we shifted our focus immediately to the next match. Qatar are the strongest team in the group and playing them will not be easy. However, it’s a great opportunity to learn from,” Stimac said.
“Obviously, we have to change 4-5 players. We’ll see how everyone is feeling. There is no reason to fear and we shall look to score goals and play good football.”
Winger Udanta Singh, who was denied by the crossbar against Oman early in the match against Oman, said that the team has to keep its “chin up”.
“The previous match is now history and everyone is now focusing on the match against Qatar. We have to keep our chins up. We started our preparations the very next day and are now looking forward to starting training here.
“We are expecting a tough encounter as Qatar are the Asian champions, but we have to stick to our plans, stay compact and play as a team. If we can do that, we can certainly pull off a favourable result,” he said.
Full-back Subhasish Bose said the motivation level in the team was high as they gear up for their first away fixture of the qualifiers, saying Stimac was “pushing the players” to learn and keep improving.
“We played well against Oman but we could have done better towards the end. However, it is important that we learn from our mistakes and ensure that we come out fighting and stronger.
“The coach has been motivating us and said that he was proud of the way we played. Against Qatar, we have to be solid and make the most of our chances,” the 24-year-old said.
Midfielder Rowllin Borges talked about how the team was recovering after the Oman match and “getting in shape” physically and mentally for the challenge in three days’ time.
“The first match was a tough one for sure but we started our recovery process in the gym the very next morning and everyone is getting in shape to now take on Qatar. It is a very important match for us and we will put our best foot forward.”
Forward Ashique Kuruniyan, who returned to the national team lineup for the first time since January, said, “We have to accept what happened against Oman and learn from it. Qatar are a strong team undoubtedly but we will push them as hard as we can and play to the best of our abilities.”