Expectations high, but situation hasn't been ideal: Stimac ahead of Qualifiers

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India football team coach Igor Stimac (Photo/ AIFF)
India football team coach Igor Stimac (Photo/ AIFF)

New Delhi [India], May 26 (ANI): All India Football Federation President Praful Patel on Wednesday met senior members of the Indian senior national team via video-conferencing to get a feel of their preparations in Doha ahead of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 Qualifiers, slated to be played from June 3 onwards.

The AIFF President encouraged the players to stay fit and wished them good luck. "More power to all of you. I wish all of you good health and strength. We are extremely proud of you," Patel said, as reported by official website of AIFF.

"We spoke to the Qatar government and we were lucky that they didn't insist on the 10-day quarantine, and that has allowed the squad to assemble in Doha and begin our training sessions," he added.

Speaking about the upcoming matches, Patel said: "This has been a terrible time. We have not had any normalcy as such. The format of the leagues was also different - all played from inside the bubble. I understand and appreciate the concern of Igor and the entire team arising out of the difficult circumstances."

Head coach Igor Stimac thanked the President for helping the squad arrive early in Doha. "We are thankful to you President and all in the AIFF for providing us the opportunity to come earlier, and also taking our cause with the Government of Qatar and arranging for us to train even during quarantine."

"The expectations are high but realistically the situation hasn't been ideal," he added.

India are scheduled to play Asian Champions Qatar on June 3, Bangladesh on June 7, and Afghanistan on June 15 with all three matches to be played at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium, Doha.

The players in unison also expressed their gratitude to Patel for his endeavour in helping the squad, and expressed their commitment, despite "the preparation not being an ideal one owing to the current circumstances."

"We are making the most of the circumstances," talismanic captain Sunil Chhetri maintained, only to be complemented by Sandesh who quipped: "The confidence in the squad is high. We have done it earlier and there's no reason why we can do it again. We have grown as a team and we need to take it forward together."

Gurpreet Singh Sandhu said: "We understand that the preparations have not been ideal but we are confident in our abilities as a team. We are not scared, and moving into the qualifiers, that's important." (ANI)