After India held Asian champions Qatar to a goal-less draw in their second Group E encounter of the joint second round FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 qualifiers, coach Igor Stimac urged his team to keep their heads down and secure wins in the upcoming matches of the tournament.
Despite missing star striker Sunil Chhetri in the match, the team put on a brilliant collective show against their illustrious opponents to notch up a memorable result at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in Doha on Tuesday.
Stand-in skipper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was sensational, keeping out waves after waves of attacks from the Qatari side.
“I’m more than happy to take one point away to the Asian Champions. Congratulations to not only my players but Qatar players also,” said the India coach, who had joined in May, at the post-match press conference.
“Of course, Qatar deserved more from the game. They created more chances. They had more corners. But we also had chances. That will bring experience. When we become more experienced, we will score from those chances. All credit goes to my players. I’m very proud of them. I’m very proud as a coach.
“I want to send them a message. Just keep (your heads) down, its only one point. If we don’t win games against Bangladesh and Afghanistan, this point won’t matter much,” he added.
The Croat then went on to praise the focus of his players against a supremely strong team like Qatar and said, “Today, we proved to everyone that we are a very good team. We played against Qatar who are in a different league to anybody (in our group). We defended with such concentration.”
The 52-year-old also issued a rallying cry to the Indian fans and hoped for their wholehearted involvement in the next home fixture against Bangladesh on October 15.
“This was our proud invitation to the Indian people for our next match. I want to see 80,000 people in Kolkata against Bangladesh. They need to be out there. We deserve that and we are expecting all of them to come and help us get three points and become more strong,” he said.