Time to rise & shine

Doha, June 2

Their preparation was far from ideal but India would take inspiration from the draw against Asian champions Qatar in 2019 when they face the same opponents in the second-leg match of the joint World Cup and Asian Cup qualifiers here tomorrow.

India had held mighty Qatar 0-0 in September 2019 here, a result considered as one of the best for the side in recent times. But India are playing their home match here as the Qatari capital was chosen as the centralised venue for all the remaining Group E matches after the qualifiers were halted last year due to the pandemic.

India’s performance, however, has gone south since then. While Qatar, the group-toppers, come into Thursday’s match on a high. They beat Luxembourg (1-0) and Azerbaijan (2-1) and played out a 1-1 draw against Ireland in the international friendly matches in March.

India are coming into this match after a demoralising 6-0 drubbing by the UAE in an international friendly the same month.

On top of that, India’s preparation has been hit hard as they had to cancel a national camp scheduled in early May in Kolkata. The team reached here on May 19 only to find that the players would not get the facilities they would have wanted.

Stimac himself had expressed the frustration, saying that it was “not an ideal preparation” for the World Cup qualifiers.

On the positive side, Stimac will have the chance to field a full strength Indian team after a long time with all the core players available for selection and without injury concern.

In their last meeting, India did not have talisman Sunil Chhteri due to a viral fever and his return will surely boost the confidence of the young Indian side. — PTI

Recent form

Qatar: Qataris beat Luxembourg 1-0 on March 24, then Azerbaijan (2-1) on March 27, played out a 1-1 draw against Ireland in the international friendly matches

India: The Blue Tigers suffered a 6-0 defeat to the UAE on March 29 in an international friendly

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