Muscat (Oman): The Indian men's football team reached Muscat, Oman on Sunday ahead of their FIFA World Cup 2022 and 2023 AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers as they continue their search for a first win in the group.
India, who have drawn their last three games against Qatar, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, to see a serious dent in their hopes of qualifying for the World Cup.
India currently sit fourth in the Group E table with just three points from games, having lost their opening qualifier 2-1 to Oman.
Ahead of the match, head coach Igor Stimac said "acclimatising to Muscat conditions is our top priority right now" and wanted his players to deliver their "maximum" against Oman.
"We have reached Muscat today (Sunday). We have had a night stay in Dubai and it helped the players get a good rest," Stimac said, "We will have a training session in Muscat today 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 19th."
The match is set to be held at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex in the capital city of the Gulf nation on Tuesday. The kick off is at 8.30PM IST.
Thank you 🙏🏻, Mr. Munu Mahawar, Ambassador of the Republic of India 🇮🇳 to Oman 🇴🇲for hosting the Blue Tigers 🐯 along with @IndianFootball coach @stimac_igor tonight 🙂#BackTheBlue 💙 #IndianFootball ⚽️ pic.twitter.com/gAHFsruwTs
— Indian Football Team (@IndianFootball) November 17, 2019
Stimac added further that the players are "physically very fit" and they're not an unit who are "suffering cramps" on the pitch.
"We are physically very fit and the players are not getting bogged down on the pitch or suffering cramps. Conditionally, we're doing well too. The recovery has been taken care of as per the plan, and that's the reason players have adapted to different weather conditions naturally."
In the first leg, Oman edged past the Blue Tigers when they faced off in Guwahati on September 5. In what was skipper Sunil Chhetri's 112th appearance for the country, he had given gave the Blue Tigers an early lead to register his 72nd goal for India.
But, Al Mandhar smacked a late brace in last 10 minutes of regulation time to swing the tie in Oman's favour in front of a 22,000-odd strong Indian support in Guwahati.
Stimac didn't mince his words to show his respect for Oman, and labelled them as one of the "favourites in group." He further mentioned that Indians are improving gradually and the numbers corroborate the same.
"Qatar and Oman are two favourites 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. 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."
"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," the Croatian coach showed his concern.
Sunil Chhetri also reiterated the same. "We have to make sure we stay disciplined and play as a tough unit who anyone wouldn't want to play against. It's a massive game in the World Cup Qualifiers where we need to gain points from."