How you begin the qualifiers campaign, can make huge difference: India's Igor Stimac
The Blue Tigers are enthusiastic about facing Kuwait in the FIFA World Cup 2026 qualifying match.
Indian National Football Team head coach Igor Stimac anticipates a difficult match as they are going to face Kuwait in the FIFA World Cup 2026 Qualifiers AFC Confederations at Jaber Al-Ahmad International Stadium in Kuwait on November 16.
India’s 10th attempt to reach the most glorious event in football will start on Thursday, which will give them a chance to earn a place in the FIFA World Cup 2026, which will be staged in the USA, Mexico, and Canada. India is placed with Kuwait, Qatar, and Afghanistan in Group A, where the other 32 teams are divided into eight groups. The top two teams of each team will proceed to the third round of qualification and will earn direct entry into the AFC Asian Cup 2027 in Saudi Arabia.
"We had a good preparation,” Stimac stated in the pre-match press conference.
“We trained for five days in Dubai, adjusting to everything that we are expecting. How you open the qualifiers with zero, one, or three points, can make a huge difference," he further said.
Since winning the Intercontinental Cup and the SAFF Championship in 2023, Stimac’s side has failed to continue the momentum as their performances didn't exactly match the recent standards in the King’s Cup, Merdeka Cup, and Asian Games. But the Blue Tigers will be aiming to regain their form with a positive start in the qualifying campaign.
Thursday’s match could see an end-to-end game, as it happened when both teams faced each other twice in the SAFF Championship 2023 this summer. But Stimac does not want to reckon that much, as the perspective has changed for both teams since then. The Blue Tigers will miss some popular faces like Anwar Ali, Ashique Kuruniyan, and Jeakson Singh due to injuries.
"This match has nothing to do with the games we played two months ago because a lot of things have changed since then," the Croatian said.
"The players had a long rest and started the season with their clubs. India and Kuwait are not the same sides; we both have had a few injured players. But that's normal in football. Teams change from month to month," he further added.
Midfielder Brandon Fernandes attended the press conference with head coach Stimac. The 29-year-old is also expecting a tough contest but wants to stay committed to getting a better result against Kuwait.
"We expect a very difficult match,” Fernandes stated.
“It's important that we have a good start in these qualifiers, and for that, we need to stay committed and give everything on the pitch," he concluded.