Struggling to find constancy in a winless campaign so far, the Indian football team needs a win in its World Cup qualifying round against Afghanistan team to be played on Thursday in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. India began the 2nd round of the qualifiers with a narrow 1-2 to eat higher ranked Oman by a memorable goal-less draw against Asian champions Qatar in Doha in September.
The good play in the first 2 matches raised expectations of a possible 3rd round berth but a 1-1 draw against Bangladesh on October 15 came as a dampener in Kolkata. Had it not been for Khan’s last-gasp header (88th minute), Stimac’s side would have totally disappointed the capacity crowd on the same day at the Salt Lake Stadium.
With the runner-up in the 5 team group not even assured of a 3rd round slot, India cannot afford to lose against Afghanistan. The Afghans, who are 149th in FIFA rankings against India 106th position, are placed 3rd in the group with one win and 2 losses.
Stimac understands the situation his players are in, that it cannot give to slip at any cost. The Croatian said it wasn’t come to us; relatively we need to go and grab it. It’s always about us and our performance to win something. The war-ravaged Afghanistan chose Dushanbe as their home venue and the match will be played on artificial turf amid freezing temperatures.
This is new to the woes of Stimac whose team are not used to these playing conditions. Stimac said “It’s very cold mercury and mercury level drops closer to sub-zero”. He added, also the match is planned on an artificial turf which our team are not used to. Afghanistan has chosen the location to make others’ life hard and we have an uphill task to face us to overcome it.
“The players will have to change the probability they get, something that they couldn’t do beside Bangladesh and we are creating chances,” talismanic Sunil Chhetri said. He added “But that’s not enough. We have to try our best to convert them and try to be a tougher unit while defending. India also endured a jolt after central defender Anas Edathodika had to go back to Dubai, where the player had a visit on way to Dushanbe, due to the death of his mother.