The Indian Football Team have started their preparation for the AFC Asian Cup in full swing after reaching Qatar. The Blue Tigers have been drawn into a comparatively tough group where they will have to face higher-ranked teams like Australia, Uzbekistan, and Syria.

Making their fifth appearance in the AFC Asian Cup, the Sunil Chhetri-led Indian team will be eyeing qualification for the knockout stages. The top two teams from each group, along with the four best third-placed teams out of six, will advance to the Round of 16. The Blue Tigers are set to commence their Asian Cup campaign against Australia on January 13, followed by matches against Uzbekistan on January 18, and Syria on January 23.

Head coach Igor Stimac is pleased to receive a warm welcome after landing in Doha and delighted to have the backing of numerous fans on foreign soil as he believes this crowd's support will be pivotal for his team to settle down in the environment and enhance their confidence.

“Excited to be back here in Doha, which is becoming kind of a home to us, and we are happy about it because the fan base we have here is huge. It's enormous, and hopefully, it's going to help our boys settle down into the first game in the tournament in a proper way,” Stimac told

“Having supporters on your side in big numbers is always an advantage, and I hope this huge support will help our boys to boost their confidence. Because how you start the game, how you open the game, is really important, and it can affect the final result,” he added.

Stimac anticipates a tough challenge in the upcoming tournament due to the potential and strength of the opposition teams. However, the Croatian coach wants his players to concentrate on themselves, aiming to boost their self-confidence.

He believes that this tournament will provide valuable exposure, especially for players participating in such a competition for the first time. Stimac sees this experience as crucial preparation before their next World Cup qualifying matches.

“We are well aware of our opponents' strengths and know that nobody expects us to dominate these games,” he stated.

“So, we're going to work on our self-confidence, mostly focusing on the defensive shape and verticality in our game when we get the ball. So, the focus will be on how to enjoy this tournament and make sure that 17 out of 26 boys who are here for the first time participating in a big tournament get the experience which is needed, and which will help us reach the third round of the World Cup qualifier,” the Croatian asserted.

Stimac shares insights on the process of how he wants his players to be ready before the games. Speaking in context, he said:

“Preparing the team for such a big tournament as the qualifiers for the Asian Cup or World Cup is a huge process, with many things that are to be done to prepare players well.”

"So, starting from the gym work, meditation sessions, football pitch practices, proper rest, proper nutrition, and tactical meetings, which will explain to the players the responsibilities they are taking care of inside the match. So, as I say, it's a complex thing, and you need to have such great characters inside the team. You need to make sure that the profile of the player you choose adds an extra quality to the dressing room,” he explained.

Stimac also shares a message for the fans, assuring them that the team is committed to giving their absolute best to make the nation proud.

“I can say we love you guys; we know how much you expect from us. We're going to do our best to make you happy, and hopefully, we're going to enjoy this tournament in a proper way,” he signed off.