CHENNAI: Just four days on from their loss to Qatar, India will have to firmly shift their energies towards getting all three points in a must-win game against Bangladesh in Doha on Monday. The Blue Tigers suffered a 0-1 loss to Qatar after being reduced to 10 men early in the game, but the odds were stacked against India regardless given the all-round strength of their opponents.
Now, though, the pressure will be firmly on India by virtue of being favourites against bottom-placed Bangladesh in Group E. There is also immense pressure on coach Igor Stimac to deliver. India are now winless for 11 games in a row, their longest streak since the start of the millennium. With the Croatian’s contract due to expire in September, it might be curtains for the former international if India don’t notch up a win in at least one of their next two games.
The tag of favourites did not help India when they met Bangladesh in Kolkata in 2019 as they needed a late equalizer from defender Adil Khan to play out a 1-1 draw. If they are to boost their hopes of qualifying directly for the third round of the 2023 Asian Cup qualifiers, a victory against the neighbours is imperative for Stimac’s boys.
India are currently fourth in Group E and need to finish third, above Afghanistan and Bangladesh, to assure themselves of a spot in the next round of the Asian Cup qualifiers. If they remain fourth, it will come down to being among the four best fourth-placed teams to advance to the next stage.
“The match against Bangladesh is a big game for our fans and the team. We are going to approach the game to win it without meaning any disrespect to our opponents. Our aim has stayed the same since the beginning – to qualify for the AFC Asian Cup,” Stimac said during a media interaction in Doha on Sunday.
Thapa to rejoin
India midfielder Anirudh Thapa has been cleared to rejoin the team for the game against Bangladesh after testing negative for Covid-19 on Sunday. The 23-year-old had to miss the Qatar game after testing positive on Wednesday and was in isolation in the team hotel. “Thapa has been cleared by the doctor of the local organizing committee to join the rest of the boys. He had another Covid test on Saturday night and returned a negative test on this occasion,” an AIFF official said.