Indian National Team head coach Igor Stimac appreciated his team's commitment and effort as they lost 0-3 to Qatar in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers in Bhubaneswar and accepted the result as he recognised Qatar's strengths.

Goals from Moustafa Mashal, Almoez Ali and Yusuf Abdurisag sealed the three points for Qatar as the Blue Tigers suffered their first setback of the qualifiers after their impressive win against Kuwait in the last match. 

“The game was what it was. Qatar were the better team. The physicality and the basic skill, the passing quality, final-third execution, it’s all there. You have a feeling that whenever they like they can get behind you and put good cross and hurt you. However I appreciate our boys’ commitment,” Igor Stimac stated in the post-match press conference.

Indian National Team play in the 2024 AFC Asian Cup in January in what looks to be a difficult test for Igor Stimac's side. India face Asian powerhouse Australia in their first game before facing Uzbekistan and Syria, two more difficult teams.

Stimac said his focus on Tuesday was more on the future than on the match against Qatar.

“The result was not my priority today. My priority as a coach today was to get answers to some questions which were haunting me for some time,” Stimac said.

“I have a clearer picture and clarity of what needs to be done and who are the players who can go to play in the Asian Cup,” he added.

The Croatian felt his team reacted well after a nervous start and could have equalised in the first half.

“After nervousness in the first 10-15 minutes which created four or five corners for Qatar and we could not handle these corners well because two of Qatar's forwards were always getting ahead, apart from that everything was good. We were progressing well and we had two good situations to equalise,” Stimac said.

“If we scored Qatar wouldn't be so relaxed and wouldn't be so confident inside the game. They would have to suffer more and risk more,” he added.

Stimac benched India's first-choice goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu for this game for Amrinder Singh. Sandhu was part of both the previous matches that India played against Qatar where they drew without conceding and lost once by a scoreline of 0-1

However, Stimac wanted to test his options and give a chance to Amrinder Singh in goal. 

“Gurpreet is our first-choice goalkeeper because Amrinder is pushing him. Amrinder is disciplined, committed and was waiting with hunger for his chance,” the Croatian stated.

India's attacking players like Sahal Abdul Samad and Mahesh Singh were also benched for this game. Both Sahal and Mahesh have been in positive form in the Indian Super League (ISL) but the Croatian felt they needed a breather.

“Sahal and Mahesh were on the bench today and the reason was simple – they have played all the games since May for both the country and the club,” Stimac said.

“We are trying to make different game plans for them where they’re going to make an impact from the bench,” he added.

Stimac was very happy with the performance of his defenders like Subhashish Bose and Rahul Bheke as both of them stepped after being given an opportunity.

“I am very happy especially today for Subhashish Bose and Rahul Bheke. He is the one who is there with Anwar Ali and Sandesh Jhingan as the three best defenders in the league,” Stimac said.

Manvir Singh could not be part of the squad as he suffered an injury setback just a few days after the Kuwait game.

Stimac was disappointed to not have Manvir Singh in the squad as he wanted to test different systems against Qatar.

“It was sad that we couldn't have Manvir but he pushed himself over the limit against Kuwait. He got injured with a muscle strain two days back. He will probably be out for seven to fourteen days. My initial plan was that if I start him today I would save Sunil for after 70 minutes to see how the boys work without him but it couldn't work,” Stimac concluded.