The Indian football team will play with the aim to beat Afghanistan in a Group E match of the World Cup 2022 and Asian Cup China 2023 qualifiers here on Tuesday, chief coach Igor Stimac said on the eve of the game.
Stimac said there was no question of India playing for a draw at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium, and that even against superior teams his team would wait for an opportunity to strike.
India are ranked 105th while Afghanistan are 149th on FIFA rankings.
“I need to say that I don’t know any coach or any team who would come out playing for a draw. Even that might seem to be a situation when you are facing much better sides. Then, you need to drop and defend for your life and wait for one, two or three chances to counter-attack like against Qatar,” he said at the official pre-match press conference.
“But, we are not going out to play for a draw. Rather, we will go out to win it. That’s what we are aiming to do. We need to start doing it from the kick-off. I know and am very confident that all our boys are ready and fit. They need to enjoy the game,” Stimac emphasised.
India have six points after seven matches while Afghanistan have five from seven games.
A win on Tuesday will help India enter the final round of the Asian Cup China 2023 qualifiers on a high. They are, however, out of contention for the 2022 World Cup.
A 10-man India went down by a solitary goal to Asian champions Qatar in their first match before beating Bangladesh 2-0 in their second match.
Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu said it was crucial to stay fresh.
“I think it’s important for us to stay fresh and face this new challenge against a very good side. Afghanistan have good quality players who can manipulate the ball and convert if given the chance. So, we need to make sure that as players, we stick to the plan and that we make life difficult for the other team and try to finish with a smile,” he said.
Stimac said that his boys are confident after the win against Bangladesh.
“The result against Bangladesh makes us confident. We are very happy that with the three points against Bangladesh we secured getting out of the danger of playing in the play-offs. Afghanistan are a better side than Bangladesh, and it will not be easy,” he said.
“Afghanistan are full of players with international experience, and most of the players are playing in foreign leagues. You can recognise it when you gauge their confidence on the ball. But at the same time, we see our chance and need to go out on the pitch and play good football and to make sure we finish this tournament on a winning note.”
Stimac said he has tried to keep the players motivated.
“Wearing the national team jersey is the biggest motivation for any player, and it comes with a huge responsibility. You know how big a population is backing us, and whoever is wearing the Indian shirt has that unique chance to make the 1.4 billion people proud,” he said.