Indian Football Team head coach Igor Stimac admitted that the match against Kuwait in the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata on Thursday is the ‘biggest match of his career’.

It's going to be a critical game for the Blue Tigers, as a win against Kuwait will put them on the brink of qualifying for the third round of the World Cup qualifiers for the very first time. The game also marks Indian captain Sunil Chhetri’s final international appearance, and this occasion pumps up all individuals to put forth their best effort to bid adieu to their captain with a victory against Rui Bento's team.

Also Read: India vs Kuwait Preview

India sit second in Group A, just behind Qatar with four points from four matches. Igor Stimac's men emerged victorious in their last face-off against Kuwait at the Damac Stadium, courtesy of Manvir Singh's solitary goal.

The forthcoming qualifier match holds huge significance in Indian football, as a win could etch the players’ names into the history books, marking a turning point for the country’s football culture.

Echoing the same sentiment at the pre-match press conference, the Blue Tigers’ head coach, Igor Stimac said, "This can change the future of Indian football. Although I'm a foreigner in this country, I feel more like an Indian. Honestly, this is the biggest game altogether in my playing and coaching career, and the simple reason is that we have a chance to make 1.5 billion Indians happy tomorrow.

“We need to do everything to make it happen. That's the reason this is the biggest game of my career together in the coaching and playing days," the head coach further added.

Nicknamed the Blue Wave, Kuwait are also experiencing a dip in form, having suffered defeat in their last four matches, including two losses against Qatar in the World Cup qualifying games.

However, Stimac isn’t underestimating the opposition, as he recognizes their strengths and anticipates another closely contested match in Kolkata.

“About Kuwait, it’s not only about height. They have great individual qualities, which can make a difference,” he said.

“They don’t have their best striker, and we don’t have Sandesh [Jhingan]. They impressed me with their performance against Qatar. Watching my boys day by day, I am at peace,” he continued.

The 56-year-old head coach is very optimistic about eliciting the best performance from his squad and is satisfied with their tireless efforts in each training session over the past month.

Stimac urged his players to maintain their composure until the final whistle and to stay focused during the decisive moments of the match.

“We did play several games against Kuwait, and all the games were very tough tight results; either team could have won the game. I would say that our best game against them was in Kuwait, where we were in shape and not allowing Kuwait any clear chances. That is something that we need to repeat with discipline, focus, and tight marking to reach the opposition box and score the goal, so the only difference is that we didn’t have any friendly games in our preparations, but the boys worked tremendously hard on details on everything else, and we will be ready for every scenario,” Stimac remarked.

The Croatian coach didn’t want his players to feel pressured before the high-stakes game. He encouraged his team to enjoy every moment of the match and to showcase their potential, regardless of the outcome.

“These are the words I said to my players from the very first day. It's only a game of football, and we should enjoy (it). The result is always in God's hands. But whatever you are doing, if you are not enjoying (it), then what is the purpose of it,” he said.

India boasts strong options between the sticks. Vishal Kaith and Amrinder Singh had a good season with their clubs, but the Indian coach expressed his faith in the abilities and experience of Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and confirmed that the 32-year-old Punjab-born goalie will be in goal for the Blue Tigers in the Kuwait game.

"Gurpreet is starting the game tomorrow. I don't question at this level and at such a high and important level my goalkeeper, who is number one,” Stimac commented.

"I hope he will prove himself again tomorrow and how crucial he is for the national team. Yes, he didn't do well, but that doesn't mean, as a coach, I will go with radical changes between the posts because experience at the international level is a huge factor," he signed off.

We are all ready: Sunil Chhetri


The captain is quite hopeful about a positive outcome from their upcoming qualifier match. Sunil Chhetri, who is set to retire from international football after the Kuwait game, wants to focus solely on the match and has set his sights on securing three points, which will boost India’s chances of qualifying for the third round.

“The only thing I want to address here is us vs Kuwait. Once we win this game, it gives us a great chance to go to the third round, which we have never done, so everything that we do is focused on fighting it out," Chhetri said.

Also Read: The Prolific Career of Sunil Chhetri

The 39-year-old forward is optimistic about achieving further positive results and making the nation proud by advancing to the third round of qualification. This achievement would guarantee them the opportunity to compete against some of the top teams in Asia in the next round.

Speaking on the context, an animated Chhetri remarked, “We win tomorrow, hopefully, and we are almost guaranteed to qualify - there are some permutations and combinations - but five games against the top teams in Asia, home and away. At home, I'm going to come in tracksuits to watch the game, away, I'm going to wear my suits."

The Indian team has been preparing for a month now. While speaking about their preparation ahead of the game, the captain echoed his head coach’s words by saying, “Like the coach said, we are all ready.”

“We have had good training for the last 15 days. All of us are fit, and so it's a good headache for the coach to have,” Chhetri concluded.

The match between India and Kuwait is scheduled to kick off at 7 PM. It will be broadcasted on Sports 18 1, Sports 18 1 HD, and Sports 18 3, with live streaming available on JioCinema.