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India Vs Qatar FIFA World Cup 2026-AFC Asian Cup 2027 Qualifiers: Nothing To Lose, Plenty To Gain - IND Coach Igor Stimac

Fresh from their triumph against Kuwait, India will take on Qatar in Bhubaneswar for the FIFA World Cup 2026-AFC Asian Cup 2027 dual-qualifier, looking to go top of the table. India head coach Igor Stimac was bullish before kick-off during his pre-match conference

Indian Captain Sunil Chhetri and teammates with Coach Igor Stimac
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Head coach Igor Stimac on Monday said that India have nothing to lose but a hell of a lot to gain in their 2026 FIFA World Cup round 2 qualifiers match against Asian champions Qatar here on Tuesday. (Match Blog | Streaming | Full Coverage)

India's 1-0 away win against Kuwait on November 16 will certainly boost their confidence but Stimac made it clear that "Qatar is out of our league", though the home side will seek to take inspiration from their famous goal-less draw against the Asian champions four years ago.

"The Kuwait game was the most important game in our qualifiers in this group. We had an away win against our direct opponent for the second spot," Stimac said at the pre-match press conference.

"We are very realistic, we know that Qatar is out of our league. But we also know that this is football, the most beautiful game in the world which provides opportunities and this is our opportunity."

Stimac urged his players to consider Tuesday's match at the Kalinga Stadium as any other game and give their best.  

"We all know their strength and what they are capable of and in what way they destroyed Afghanistan a few days back," said Stimac, referring to Qatar's 8-1 win over Afghanistan in their earlier match on November 16.

"It's a game like any other, that is what my players need to accept and prepare for. What we can do is give our best.

"This is a game where there is nothing to lose for us and a hell of a lot to gain for. So, let's go for it."

Not thinking of past result: Sandhu

Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, who had captained the Indian team that played out the famous 0-0 draw in Doha on September 10, 2019, said he is not thinking about the past result now.

"It's going to be a challenge as they are a quality side. But there is nothing to be scared of, just to give our best.

"We are playing at our home and we need to use this advantage to go for the maximum, give a good fight and hope for the best," said Sandhu, adding that nobody is thinking about the past results.

In that drawn match in Doha four years ago, India survived waves of Qatari attacks and Sandhu produced 11 saves and saw the upright coming to his rescue once.

"I would love maximum points for the least work possible. I want the players to get on the scoresheet and get us a win, that is much better for me than me making many saves," he said.

Talismanic striker Suni Chhetri did not play that match as he was indisposed. But he will, as usual, be the pivotal player on Tuesday.  

"Having Sunil is always a bonus, there is no doubt about that," Sandhu said.

"In the past four years, a lot of players have developed and played a lot of football together and they are maturing.

"Forget what had happened four years ago, let us move forward. We are a different team now, we are a better team. We must go out with zero fear and give our absolute everything."

Team has progressed a lot in four years since the 2019 Qatar match: Stimac

"It was the start of a process. Now four years later, we can say that the process of reconstructing the team is finished but it will never stop," said the Croatian, who took charge of the team just a few months before the 2019 draw in Qatar.

"We have a much bigger pool of players who are contenders for the national team positions. We can go for various options inside the game. We are still in love with the 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 formation depending on the opponent."

Stimac said consistency and good performance level of the team was also clear.

"When you play 11 consecutive matches without losing, you don't lose a match against Iraq (in Kings Cup in Thailand), it is quite evident that you are consistent."

He also vented his frustration at the poor refereeing -- though without mentioning anything -- during India's match against Malaysia in the Merdeka Cup last month. India lost that match 2-4.

"I will not go back and mention the tournament in Malaysia (Merdeka) because I don't have anything good to say about it. It's not about my team, my players but about what happened there," he said.

"It's sad that my work and the work of my boys ... commitment and hunger depends on a few poor people who (were) deciding on a certain day to destroy all our work of the past few years.

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"With one poor decision or bad decision, because that changes 10 positions in the rankings, imagine that and I am judged on the rankings at the end of the day."

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