India coach Igor Stimac, for a chance, did not appear apoplectic after a loss. The Blue Tigers lost to the Asian Champion Qatar 3-0, its first loss in 15 games at home here on Tuesday.
But the Croat chose to call a spade a spade at the press conference where he said that the team was head and shoulders above the hosts throughout the game.
“Qatar was in a different league. The (way) they looked on the pitch, the physicality, the basic skill, the passing quality, the final third execution, it was all there,” he said.
“For us today, against a team like this, you cannot give away anything. Today, that was not the case. We had some poor reactions defensively, some poor passes, and also when we created situations of how situations in the final third we were not accurate. You know, maybe we had too much respect.”
India, playing without its four key players, including the goalscorer in the last match, Manvir Singh, conceded two goals in the first four minutes of each half.
“I appreciate our boys’ commitment and faith and that’s something which we need to take out from today’s game.
“When you go early down in the game against Qatar, you fear a heavy defeat but our boys kept playing and trying and that’s what I want from them. And that’s part of the learning process and it’s a good lesson,” Stimac said.
A dig at the infrastructure
The Indian coach did not shy away from underlining that there was a lot more work needed to strengthen football’s infrastructure in the country.
“We still need to work a lot, inside our house, our family, about everything that is connected to football. Qatar spends more on one trip coming here than we (do) all year on all selections, clear as that. Organization-wise travel, logistics, food, sleep, rest, everything needs to get better to get and it will help us in the future,” he said.
When asked if the team had decided to get ahead of itself during the qualifier, with an eye on the AFC Asian Cup, Stimac rebuked saying that the qualifying games were the ultimate priority as the team will not get enough time to prepare for the latter.
AS IT HAPPENED | INDIA VS QATAR FIFA WORLD CUP 2026 QUALIFIERS HIGHLIGHTS
“Let’s stop talking about the Asian Cup. We didn’t get what we wanted. I was very clear – you give me time, I might provide results for you. Without the time, do not ask about results or anything like that. Just forget it,” he said.
Stimac had posted on X (formerly known as Twitter), requesting a longer national camp ‘throughout November and December’ for the qualifiers and the Asian Cup, which could not reach fruition because of the crammed schedule of the Indian Super League (ISL).
“We’re going to do everything, but there is no time for us to work (enough) in the 12-13 days. It’s nothing to prepare the team we’re going to face Uzbekistan, who will be preparing for six weeks. I don’t consider Australia as they are (even) better than Qatar.”
India sits second in its group in the second round of World Cup qualifiers and stands a chance to qualify for the third round for the very first time if it can stick to that spot at the end of this round.
“I need to make sure that we get enough points in our group for the World Cup qualifiers. So we make sure that we have another five or six home games in the third round here and that will be a huge benefit for Indian football for the future,” he said.
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