Once Referee Blows the Whistle, Temperature Won't Matter: India Ready for World Cup Qualifier
FIFA 2022 World Cup Qualifier: India take on Afghanistan in Dushanbe, Tajikistan in under 10 degrees Celsius.
India face Afghanistan in the World Cup qualifiers. (Photo Credit: AIFF)
Dushanbe (Tajikistan): The Indian men's football team was welcomed in Dushanbe with the mercury hovering around 6-7 degrees Celsium on Wednesday as India prepare to take on Afghanistan in their FIFA 2022 World Cup qualifier and AFC Asian Cup 2023 qualifier on Thursday.
India are to play in tough conditions - chilly weather and artificial turf - as they look to keep up their hopes in the World Cup qualifiers after losing their opener to Oman at home before drawing two straight games against Qatar away and Bangladesh in Kolkata.
"As a player, you have to be confident and face every challenge head-on. That's why we are here. Yes, the conditions have not been in our favour to some extent but that won't have any effect when the referee blows the whistle. If we can execute the coach's plans on the pitch, we can surely hope for a good result," Pronay Halder said at the pre-match press conference held in Dushanbe on Wednesday morning.
India's head coach Igor Stimac was vary of the physical presence and stamina of the Afghanistan side and said it would be a difficult game.
"We know how difficult this game is going to be for us. We both (India and Afghanistan) have already faced Qatar and Bangladesh in the qualifiers. We see Afghanistan as a physical side with good composure. They have some players who also have the experience of playing in Europe. They are not in the top division, but playing in Europe always gives you an extra bit of confidence. They have stamina and they'll pose a tough challenge for us," Stimac said in the presser.
Meanwhile, experienced centre back Anas Edathodika flew back home late on Tuesday owing to a family emergency. "Anas (Edathodika) is having a tough time. Our thoughts are with him and his family. He has been an instrumental member of the squad and we will miss him. The onus is now on the other players to take the mantle and deliver on the pitch," Stimac added.
Stimac looked back at the Bangladesh game and said it was difficult with people's expectation but was glad to have snuck a point after trailing for almost the entire match.
"The most difficult games are those when people who are following you, write the result before the game starts. We witnessed it against Qatar as well as Bangladesh. When Bangladesh came, they were defending with 10 players and were looking to counter-attack. Without taking away any credit from them, we earned a point against them. We can't forget that they were leading until the 87th minute."
The gaffer also said that with India's passion for the game increasing, they will want to fulfil the expectation.
"We are happy that people in India are following us with lots of passion now. They have a great expectation on us and we'll try our level best to make them happy," he said.
Meanwhile, Anoush Dastagiv, Afghanistan head coach mentioned though it's not their own country, they get "confidence" when they play in Dushanbe.
"Yes, geographically it's far from own country and we would have been happier if we could have gotten the chance to play in our own country. But, playing in Tajikistan has always given us much-needed confidence. We have beaten Cambodia, Bangladesh here and settled with a draw against Tajikistan and Jordan. Those results will surely give us a psychological boost tomorrow (Thursday)," Dastagiv said.
"Here, people speak our language. We feel at home. Whenever we play in front of Afghani crowd, we never fail to get positive results. We hope we can get something closer to that tomorrow (Thursday) as well," he added.
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