The Indian men’s football team are on the rise and Igor Stimac sounded confident ahead of their FIFA World Cup qualifier against Qatar at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Tuesday.
“No need to talk too much about Qatar. We know their strength and I will say this game we can say that it’s a game with nothing to lose for us, but a lot to win. So let’s go for it,” Stimac said at the pre-match press conference in Bhubaneswar.
Sunil Chhetri-led Blue Tigers started their Round 2 of the FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027 Joint Qualification journey with a crucial win over Kuwait away from home. Manvir Singh was the star on the night with a brilliant finish despite some ‘tough’ football from Kuwait.
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“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,” Stimac said.
“It is going to be very difficult, 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. The first and bigger part was accomplished by winning against Kuwait, now I want the boys to show their quality against Qatar,” he added.
This is not the first time that India and Qatar are facing off in the World Cup qualifiers. On September 10, 2019, in their 2022 World Cup second-round qualifiers, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu stood tall in goal as India managed to hold the mighty Asian Champions to a goalless draw, that too in Doha.
“We progressed a lot and we all know that. In the last meeting in 2019, Qatar didn’t drop a point at that time, and we managed to get a point. We were the only team in Asia to do that. Hence the signs of improvement were already there,” Stimac said.
Having said that, Stimac maintained that India needs to give their best against Qatar.
“We need to approach no differently than any other game. We can’t control the crowd, but we can control our performance on an individual level and as a team. And to give our best tomorrow is the aim,” Stimac added.
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Maximum points with minimum work for me: Gurpreet Singh
“My message will be to forget what happened 4 years ago. We are past that. We have progressed well and are a better team now. If we feel after the game that we have given everything then we will be contented,” Gurpreet, who was sitting next to his coach, said.
When posed the question if he would prefer to have a performance like he had produced against Qatar the last time, when he made 11 stunning saves, Gurpreet said he would rather have a quiet night in goal.
“Maximum points with least work is a goalkeeper’s dream. It is much better for me than making many saves and don’t get points,” he said.
India Promises Their Best, Qatar Better
Qatar, on the other hand, are coming off a dominating 8-1 win over Afghanistan.
Visiting head coach Carlos Queiroz though is not counting his three points just yet,
“Our goals remain the same because we know we will face a good team. We need to have mobility and be aggressive in the game all 90 minutes to finish the game,” Queiroz said ahead of the game.
“The Indian team is consistent, the players know their jobs and do it well. My first target will be to play the best football, the best quality football and be the best team in the field. You can’t win if you don’t play well. In the previous game was a victory but it was still not good enough. We have a young team with quality players who can bring a result,” he added.
Qatar captain Hassan Al-Haydos echoed his coach’s pessimism.
“All the teams are challenges for us. But we need to challenge ourselves to be better in each game. We have to do better than the previous game and do our best to take three points,” he said.
Qatar are ranked 61 in the world, while India are 102nd.