Winless India will start as underdogs in the World Cup qualifying round match against Oman here on Tuesday, said head coach Igor Stimac, while ruing that his players were creating chances but not converting them.
In search of their first win in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers, the Blue Tigers take on Oman in the return leg at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex. Stimac’s side had lost 1-2 in the first leg in Guwahati in September.
“Qatar and Oman are two favorites in our group. The difference between the other three (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and India) is very less. Against Afghanistan my team performed in the second half,” Stimac said.
India had needed an injury-time goal to eke out a 1-1 draw against Afghanistan in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, on November 14 to play out their third draw of the campaign in four matches. They are at the fourth spot in the Group E table with three points.
“This is a team for the future and we are in the process of becoming a tough team to play against. We had created chances to win every match until now. We even created chances against Qatar in the last minutes. We’re improving gradually and that’s what makes me proud,” the Croatian said after the team reached here on Sunday.
“We are a unit that passes the ball confidently but we have to keep in mind that we are making too many mistakes and giving away possession. We have to work further on this,” he added.
Senior-most player Sunil Chhetri described the upcoming Oman match as a massive game.
“We have to make sure we stay disciplined and play as a tough unit who anyone would not want to play against. It is a massive game in the World Cup Qualifiers where we need to gain points from,” he said.
Two back-to-back away fixtures could be challenging, that too in different climatic conditions as well as different turfs. But the team has responded well so far, said Stimac, adding that “acclimatizing to Muscat conditions is the top priority right now”.
“We have had a night stay in Dubai and it helped the players get a good rest. We had a training session in Muscat this evening to fine-tune our preparation before taking on Oman. We know how tough the game will be. So we have to make sure all players stay fit and deliver maximum on the 19th.”
“We are physically very fit and the players are not getting bogged down on the pitch or suffering cramps. The recovery has been taken care of as per the plan, and that’s the reason players have adapted to different weather conditions.”