Guwahati, Sep 4 (IANS) It will be new coach Igor Stimac’s biggest test yet when India take on Oman in their first game of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers on Thursday.
Stimac is one of the most high-profile coaches to have taken charge of the Indian team having been part of Croatia’s team that reached the semi-finals of the 1998 World Cup.
But his start hasn’t been impressive as he has looked to blood more youngsters and find his best combinations.
A third-place finish in the King’s Cup in Thailand was followed by a poor display in the Intercontinental Cup at home.
Oman are ranked 103rd in the world and it will get only tougher for him and his team.
India will once again bank on talisman Sunil Chhetri to deliver the goods up front.
“The preparations for the game went really well and as a coach, I am happy. This will be our third campaign and I am happy with the improvement in the team in terms of the understanding levels of the players and their fitness levels. We are well prepared,” Stimac said on the eve of the match.
The last meeting between the two teams was in a friendly match in December last year that ended in a goalless draw. Talking about the upcoming task, the coach said that the team will look to be “strong and organised” on the pitch.
Chhetri, who has scored 71 goals in 111 appearances for the Blue Tigers, stated that there is a “pulse of excitement” in the team with just one day to go for the crucial game.
“There is a great eagerness in the team and one really feels the pulse of excitement among the boys. We are really looking forward to the game. We had a great training camp and everyone in the team is fit and hungry. The players are gelling well and responding to what the coach expects from them,” Sunil said.
After facing Oman, India will travel to Doha to face Qatar in their next FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifier on September 10. Afghanistan and Bangladesh are the other two teams that make up Group E.