Indian Football Team head coach Igor Stimac expressed his disappointment as the Blue Tigers played out a 0-0 draw against Kuwait in the FIFA World Cup and AFC Asian Cup Joint Qualifiers Round 2 at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata on Thursday.

India came onto the field aiming to secure three points from the game to revive their chances of qualifying for the third round and bid a perfect farewell to their captain Sunil Chhetri. However, the game didn't pan out as planned, with Kuwait putting in a strong performance in every sector of the field.

The draw meant that India remained second in the table with five points from five matches, the same as third-placed Afghanistan.

Stimac shared his insights from the game as he evaluated the performance of the players afterwards.

"Obviously, disappointed with the end result. The game was tough as we expected, as any of the games against Kuwait. The draw, I would say, was realistic. They (Kuwait) opened the game much better, with much more confidence. More confidence in passing, in speed of passing, and moving.

It took us some time to gear up, to start passing the ball and moving into areas where we could create danger. And I would say that the general passing speed was the biggest problem we had. That was not good enough to break down a team like Kuwait. Even in the situations where we had certain moments when we put pressure on them and continuous attacks, there was no quality in the delivery to hurt them more,” Stimac said.

The Blue Tigers' performance up front was pretty timid, with them able to create only a few chances. Kuwait, on the other hand, had more clear-cut chances than the home side; however, the Indian backline and goalkeeper, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, stood out particularly.

Commenting on the performance of the shot-stopper, Stimac said, "We had the best player on the pitch in Gurpreet (Singh Sandhu), which is not a good sign (for the team). But it's a good sign for him; it's fantastic for everyone in the team to have such a goalkeeper here. The first-choice goalkeeper who we believed in whenever there was doubt from anyone outside our team about him, we never had any doubts, you know, what he could do and how much he could hurt the team, which he did in a fabulous way tonight."

The Croatian expressed his disappointment once again with the Indian captain not getting the three points and having to settle for only a draw in his final international game. However, the coach now wants to look forward to the Qatar challenge on Tuesday, June 11.

"So, really sad for Sunil (Chhetri), really sad, you know, he didn't go out with a win, a very important win, but on the other hand, we don't have time to feel sorry for ourselves because we are still alive (in the top two race), you know, so I need to do everything as a coach in the next five days to make the boys believe, to make them create the atmosphere and environment of belief, which can take us into the challenge that is ahead of us at the levels, playing against the Asian champions,” he remarked.

Jay Gupta, who had a terrific campaign with FC Goa in his first season in the Indian Super League (ISL), was handed his international debut against Kuwait by coach Stimac.

The left-back stood firm in the backline to keep out the opponent's attack down the right flank.

"Jay (Gupta) did a great job for us tonight. That's another debut for the national team in such an important game,” stated Stimac.

The Kolkata crowd once again didn't disappoint. Starting from displaying some beautiful TIFO and mosaic choreography for the game and for Sunil Chhetri in particular, to being vocal throughout the game, they played the role of the 12th man for the Blue Tigers.

Stimac was full of praise for the supporters, and he hopes his side can produce a good result against Qatar to put smiles back on their faces.

"They came in huge numbers. They were backing up the team. They were patient. They were never frustrated throughout the game, no matter how many mistakes we made. So, big thanks from the whole team to them, and we hope we can make them proud in the final game,” he said.

The draw against Kuwait has now reduced India's chances of progressing to the third round of the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, but they still have a chance.

They will need to beat mighty Qatar, who will field a relatively younger squad, to qualify as they have a far better goal difference than Afghanistan. In case of a draw, they will have to hope for another draw between Afghanistan and Kuwait in the other game on Tuesday.

"We need to believe in our team. We need to believe in our abilities, and in what's possible to do. We have a young team. So we need to believe in what we can do.

"In five days' time, this might be India U23 against Qatar U23 if you look at the age and the players we have, so I expect a lot from this game, to be honest,” Stimac commented.

The Indian coach kept his faith in Sandhu, and the 'keeper paid off by making some remarkable saves. Sandhu, however, wants to look forward to the next game against Qatar where, of course, they will be without Chhetri.

Commenting on their approach against Qatar, Sandhu said, "Like any other game that we would play, obviously this time around we won't have Sunil Bhai with us, which is sad, but we, as a team, need to cope with that and move forward because, unfortunately, the world doesn't wait for anyone.

"And like Coach said, we need to prepare ourselves in the best manner possible because any game is not lost before it starts. We go out there against Qatar, going for all three points and giving it our best shot,” Sandhu added.