Focus on Qatar as Blue Tigers vow not to let Oman disappointment linger

The Indian national football team is eager to put the disappointing loss to Oman behind them quickly and focus on the test ahead - facing reigning Asian champions Qatar in their own backyard. Coming off a 1-2 loss against Oman in the opening match of their joint second round FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 Qualifiers, the impetus will be on the Blue Tigers to take points off a Qatar team, which presides 41 places above them in the latest FIFA rankings, on September 10.

The defeat against Oman was a hard pill to swallow for head coach Igor Stimac and Co. as despite playing brilliant football and leading till the 82nd minute of the match by virtue of a 24th minute Sunil Chhetri strike, two goals in the last eight minutes of regulation time ended up costing India the match.

The manner of the defeat was a painful one but the entire team, including Stimac, is united with the intent to not let the bitter aftertaste linger and focus their collective efforts into the test that lies in front of them. "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 in an interview with the All India Football Federation.

The 52-year-old further illustrated that his team won't be intimidated by the reputation of their opponents and promised, "There is no reason to fear and we shall look to score goals and play good football."

The squad reached Doha on Saturday ahead of the crunch tie and is already preparing themselves for Tuesday's big match at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium. Winger Udanta Singh, who hit the crossbar in the match against Oman, echoed the gaffer's thoughts and reiterated the side's collective grit to prove a point. "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.

Ashique Kuruniyan, who returned to the national team against Oman after a long injury layoff and gave a good account of himself, said, "I had been working really hard to return to full fitness in the last few months and I'm glad to wear the India jersey once again. 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."

Defender Subhasish Bose, meanwhile, admitted that the Oman match was a hard result to accept, especially considering the way the side played, but stated that the experience would only serve to make the unit stronger. "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," he remarked.

With the temperatures touching 40-degree Celsius in Qatar and just five days separating the two matches, midfielder Rowllin Borges stressed on the importance of being physically and mentally fit for the upcoming test. "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," the 27-year-old revealed.

Qatar dismantled Afghanistan 6-0 in their first match of the qualifiers and will be looking to put another similar performance against India on September 10. The match starts at 10 PM IST.

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