Bhubaneswar (Odisha) [India], November 20 (ANI): The Indian men's football team will take on the defending champions of Asia, Qatar in a home game of the 2026 FIFA World Cup and 2027 AFC Asian Cup joint Qualifiers at the Kalinga Stadium on Tuesday.
India are unbeaten at home this year, but the biggest test is set to come on November 21, when Igor Stimac's men take on Asian champions Qatar in their second match of the FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup 2027 Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 2.
Off to a flying start four days ago with three points against Kuwait in Group A, India will now count on home support in a very familiar location to tackle the test from the 61-ranked Qatari side.
India head coach Igor Stimac on Monday stated that his team has a great deal to learn from their Tuesday 2026 FIFA World Cup round 2 qualifying encounter against Asian champions Qatar.
According to Stimac, India will attempt to give it their all on Tuesday against the Asian Champions because they have nothing to lose.
"It's a game, where there is nothing to lose for us but a lot to win for. So let's go for it all out. We cannot control the external factors. We can only control our performances at the individual level and as a team. The only thing for us to do is to give our best for 90 minutes when the first whistle sounds," Stimac said at the pre-match press conference.
Accompanying the Croatian in the press conference was goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, who delivered one of the performances of his life, making 11 saves as India had held Qatar 0-0 in their own den in the World Cup Qualifiers in 2019.
"Hopefully I have less work (this time). Maximum points with the least work possible is a goalkeeper's dream. I want the players in front of me to enjoy, get on the scoresheet and give us the win," he added.
Stimac spoke about the importance of being consistent when competing at a tournament as big as the World Cup Qualifiers, which was something India lacked last time out. Following that draw with Qatar, India were held 1-1 by both Bangladesh and Afghanistan, which ultimately hampered the Blue Tiger's bid to progress to Round 3.
However, Stimac reiterated that this year has been the most consistent one for India under his tenure.
"When you play high-level games consecutively without losing, facing Kyrgyzstan, Kuwait three times, Lebanon twice, Iraq and you don't lose matches and keep clean sheets, it's quite evident that you are consistent," he said.
"I said to our players immediately after the Kuwait game in the dressing room that the best thing is to forget this game immediately. Save your energy from celebrating, being over-confident and getting into euphoria. No, forget it. Let's get preparing for the Qatar game. That's the only way forward," added Stimac. (ANI)