Despite the circumstances not being ideal due to the Covid-19 situation, there is no lack of motivation and desire to do well among Indian players ahead of their remaining three matches of the 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers in Doha.

The 28 probables are presently training hard in the Qatari capital before they line up against Qatar (June 3), Bangladesh (June 7) and Afghanistan (June 15). Although the Blue Tigers, with three points from five games in Group E, are out of contention for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, there is still a chance that they can make it to the 2023 AFC Asian Cup to be held in China.   

And India goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, who represents Bengaluru FC in the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL), insists the team is determined to get good results even though the preparations have been far from ideal. “We understand that the preparations have not been ideal but we are confident in our abilities as a team. We are not scared, and moving into the qualifiers, that’s important,” Sandhu said in a virtual interaction between All India Football Federation [AIFF] officials and Indian players.

Defender Sandesh Jhingan, who played the 2020-21 Hero ISL final with ATK Mohun Bagan, echoed the same sentiments. “The confidence in the squad is high. We have done it earlier and there’s no reason why we can do it again. We have grown as a team and we need to take it forward together,” he said.

Meanwhile, national coach Igor Stimac thanked the AIFF for helping the team get the ‘mandatory 10-day quarantine’ waiver in Doha as it has allowed the Blue Tigers to jump-start preparations. 

“We are thankful to you Mr President [Praful Patel] and all in the AIFF for providing us the opportunity to come earlier, and also taking our cause with the Government of Qatar and arranging for us to train even during quarantine,” Stimac expressed his gratitude.

 “The expectations are high but realistically the situation hasn’t been ideal,” the Croatian went on to add.

 Mr Patel, for his part, thanked the players and staff for being resilient in these tough times and wished them the best going into the qualifiers. 

“More power to all of you. I wish all of you good health and strength. We are extremely proud of you.

“We spoke to the Qatar government and we were lucky that they didn’t insist on the 10-day quarantine, and that has allowed the squad to assemble in Doha and begin our training sessions.

“This has been a terrible time. We have not had any normalcy as such. The format of the leagues was also different – all played from inside the bubble. I understand and appreciate the concern of Igor and the entire team arising out of the difficult circumstances,” he said.