Doha [Qatar], June 2 (ANI): India senior football team coach Igor Stimac on Wednesday stated that India's goalless draw against Qatar in the first-leg of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Qualifiers came as a "big surprise" to the footballing fraternity.
Speaking at the official pre-match press conference a day prior to India's match against the Asian champions, Stimac said: "We are very proud of what we achieved in the last game. That was a big surprise to everyone all over the world - India holding Asian champions Qatar in Doha. But that was a different situation. From the very first minute of our arrival, there were thousands of our supporters giving us that extra energy making us feel that we were playing at home."
"But 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 tomorrow (Thursday)," he added.
Stimac stressed that having captain Sunil Chhetri back in the side is a "huge encouragement" to all the younger players in the squad.
"Everyone knows what it means for Indian Football. Each one of our players understand what it means to have Sunil back in the team and on the pitch with them. They will go out with more courage with him around. It is a great pleasure working with him. I will try everything in my abilities to keep him playing as long as possible. He trains in every training session as if he is 25 and plays as if he is 25. He is scoring goals and I am happy that he can encourage our players," said Stimac.
"We are happy to be here. We are aware of how much effort the All India Football Federation has put together to get us here with the help of the Government of Qatar and the Qatar Football Association for the Qualifiers. The situation is different from the last time we were here but we need to accept the situation and deal with it," he added.
Interestingly enough, Felix Sanchez, the head coach of Qatar also maintained that for his team, "it will be a difficult game against India".
"In the first leg, it was very tough and close. We did dominate but we were not able to score despite all the domination. There were certain aspects that did not work in our last game against India. We have worked on them and hope to implement it on the pitch," the official website of AIFF quoted Felix as saying.
"We will give our best, and the boys are motivated. Each game has a different history. Sometimes you look at the result, sometimes you look at the manner in which we played. It will be a mistake to expect an easy game. We are not making that mistake," he added. (ANI)