Indian Football Team head coach Igor Stimac urged his players to be diligent in securing a monumental win against Qatar in a crucial game in the FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup Joint Qualifiers Round 2 at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium in Ar-Rayyan on Tuesday.

The Blue Tigers are currently in second place in Group A, but there is only a small margin separating three teams in the group. These closely contested matches create intense competition for the second qualifying spot, as Qatar has already advanced to the third round of the World Cup qualifiers.

Also Read: What India need to qualify to the third round of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers?

Stimac’s men couldn’t get the better of Rui Bento’s Kuwait in their last outing in Kolkata, as the match ended in a stalemate. India are now winless in their last seven games, with their last victory coming against Kuwait seven months ago, in November.

The Blue Tigers face a monumental challenge against the Asian champions, Qatar, to etch their names in the history books of Indian football by qualifying for the third round for the first time. Anything less than a win can jeopardize India's dream, as salvaging a draw will not ensure their qualification unless the Kuwait vs. Afghanistan game also ends in a draw.

However, Stimac expressed faith in his players’ potential and their immense confidence to deliver standout performances in decisive moments.

“Over the last five years, we have created hope within the team, which was never there before. I am proud of the boys, of how confident they are when they take the pitch,” he said in the pre-match press conference.

“I’ve told them that the only thing they need to do is enjoy the game, be proud of their country, and take the opportunities that will make the 1.4 billion people back home happy. It’s all about the 90 minutes for us tomorrow, and we are prepared to die on the pitch if required,” he added.

India’s struggle to score goals has been a significant concern. The Blue Tigers couldn't find the net throughout the AFC Asian Cup, and their last goal from open play came against Kuwait in November, with the other goal in this period being a penalty against Afghanistan at home.

Sunil Chhetri's retirement after the Kuwait game leaves a huge void in Stimac’s forward line. Without a veteran forward up front and given their recent scoring difficulties, the Blue Tigers face a daunting challenge to secure a victory against the 34th-ranked Qatar.

The Croatian coach preferred not to dwell on Chhetri’s absence, choosing instead to highlight his team’s collective strengths. Stimac also called on his senior players to demonstrate their leadership both on and off the pitch during this transition period.

“We are not thinking about it (Chhetri’s absence). We’ve played several games over the last five years without him, and we have shown that we can play in a composed manner. We’ve got other leaders on the side who now need to step up,” he commented.

“Of course, Sunil (Chhetri) has some great qualities – his personality, leadership skills, and football quality, but I am not going to go back to it. This is about the team, not about any individual,” Stimac added.

In football, everything is possible: Brandon Fernandes

Brandon Fernandes accompanied Stimac ahead of the high-octane clash against Qatar, which will decide India’s future in the World Cup qualifiers. The midfielder, known for his supreme playmaking quality and innate ability to control the tempo of a match, has made 26 appearances for the Blue Tigers, in which he has provided seven assists.

The midfielder was in great form during the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023–24 season, where he created the most chances (60) in the league.

Fernandes was also featured in the last match, where India played out a goalless draw against Kuwait. The 29-year-old remains optimistic about delivering a strong performance against Qatar to secure their way to the third round of qualification.

“For me in football, everything is possible,” he said.

“If we go with a good mindset to win the game, we will get something out of it. Even a draw could be good for us, but we have to go there with a lot of hunger (to win)," Fernandes concluded.

The India vs. Qatar match will be live-streamed on Fancode starting at 9:15 PM.