Qatar is ranked 61st in the FIFA Rankings, above India’s 102 position, which has yet to qualify for the World Cup stage.
Ahead of his co-qualifiers match against Qatar for the 2026 World Cup edition and the 2027 AFC Asian Cup, India’s coach Igor Stimac has admitted that his team expects not to defeat the Gulf State and will aim to “enjoy” the game.
Speaking to the All India Football Federation (AIFF), Stimac cited Qatar’s 8-1 game against Afghainstation as the reason for his low expectations.
“We have analyzed Qatar from every angle and position and know very well what they are capable of in terms of speed and strength. Their defensive and offensive positions are immaculate, which they demonstrated against Afghanistan by scoring eight goals,” the Croatian football head said.
“They could well have scored eight more. It is going to be very difficult, and I just want the boys to enjoy their game in the next match. The first and bigger part was accomplished by winning against Kuwait, now I want the boys not to take any pressure and show their quality against Qatar,” Stimac added.
The head coach, poised to become the longest-serving coach in the team’s football history after signing a contract until 2026, was applauded for guiding the team to three tournament titles, including victories against Kuwait and Lebanon.
Yet, despite the recent success of the Indian team, Stimac said his team is confident in the tournament besides playing against Qatar.
“We have to be in the top two positions to go to the next round of the qualifiers so, this helps in our goal of reaching the next round. Qatar are one of the pre-tournament favourites from the group. We do not have high expectations, but we know we have a chance, and we have to grab that with both hands,” Stimac told the AIFF.
After Qatar dominated Afghanistan earlier this month, Stimac revealed that injuries on his squad caution for a loss against the Maroons.
“Our main worry was the impact on the quality of the starting XI owing to the injuries. Losing the likes of Anwar (Ali), Ashique (Kuruniyan), and Jeakson (Singh) was a big blow for us as they were the young players who brought energy and quality to this side,” Stimac added.
The Carlos Queiroz squad is a mix of young stars and veteran players, including Pedro Miguel, Akram Afif, Hassan Al Haydos, and Asian Football Confederation (AFC) 2023 Player of the Year nominee Almoez Ali.
In the match against Afghanistan, Ali hit four goals in the first half.
The 27-year-old forward made his mark on the pitch, striking a goal in the 15th and the 26th minute before settling two penalties before the end of the half.
The match against India is expected to be less than challenging, as the South Asian country has a FIFA ranking of 102.
Qatar will take on India in Bhubaneshwar at a sold-out Kalinga Stadium.