CHENNAI: Over the course of the next fortnight, Indian football will be put through a rigorous examination that will go a long way towards determining its immediate future. With games against Qatar, Bangladesh and Afghanistan scheduled in Doha, India may need at least one win and a draw to guarantee their place in the third round of the 2023 Asian Cup qualifiers.
Victories have been hard to come by for India of late; they have won just one game – a 1-0 win over Thailand in the King’s Cup two years ago – since Croatia’s Igor Stimac took over as coach in May 2019. And they have Asian champions Qatar to negotiate first up.
While the Indian team miraculously managed a goalless draw the last time these two teams met, Qatar will start as runaway favourites in their clash on Thursday. “We are very proud of what we achieved in the last game (against Qatar). That was a big surprise to everyone all over the world. I reiterate that such a result can happen in one out of 10 games – to get a point against Qatar.
They are such a quality team and the best team in Asia. We need to work a lot harder to get continuous success against better sides. It will be an extremely difficult game for us,” Stimac said during a pre-match press conference on Wednesday. Up front, the presence of veteran Sunil Chhetri will be a big source of comfort for India.