The Indian midfielder praised the infrastructure and facilities in Qatar …
The same grass, the same competition and the same fierce opponents. There will be an air of familiarity when India takes on Asian champions Qatar on June 3 at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in their joint 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup qualifier.
It is in this same stadium that India may have had one of its best results in recent times in international football when it held Felix Sanchez Bas’s men to a 0-0 draw in September. 2019. Qatar were in scathing form at the time and had won eight of the eight matches on Asian soil. But it was Igor Stimac’s India that stopped their juggernaut. In those eight matches, Qatar’s prolific attack had managed to score a staggering 25 goals, which further elevates India’s clean sheet to a higher pedestal.
In fact, only South American heavyweights like Brazil, Argentina and Colombia, apart from the Men in blue, who walked away with a clean sheet against Qatar that year.
“We entered the game with a positive frame of mind. We knew Qatar were a very good team and we couldn’t afford to concede early. We wanted to be in the game until the second half. time and once we had the momentum we tried to create opportunities. It was a great game for us and we defended really well, ”Brandon Fernandes recalled to Goal.
Just “well defended” is an understatement, as it was more of a defensive masterclass. In the absence of Sunil Chhetri, goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was issued the captain’s armband. The added responsibility might have spurred him on to do better, as it is his genius under the batons that has repeatedly denied Almoez Ali, Hassan Al Haydos. He organized his defense from behind so that the chestnuts were struggling to find a place.
The players gave everything, but above all, they did it as a team and that made all the difference. Not only Chhetri but the team also missed Ashique Kuruniyan and even Fernandes was used as a replacement by coach Stimac, after an intense game against Oman a few days ago in which he crashed to the ground. But each player knew his job, supported each other and finally India rejoiced.
This time the challenge will be more difficult. Not only because Qatar will be eager to prove a point, but also the Indian players will be in action for the first time after two months.
Mercury in Qatar is also skyrocketing, but luckily that would be offset by the advanced cooling technology that has been installed in the stadium.
“The last time we were in Qatar the stadium was pretty cool. There was no humidity. It was conditioned quite well. Incredible conditions for playing football. In fact, Qatar has excellent conditions. World-class football infrastructure and facilities. It will be a great feeling to play on the Al Saad pitch. (I am) looking forward to a good experience playing there, “said Fernandes.
The enemies and the conditions are well known. It remains to be seen whether the Blue tigers can repeat their roar, which once silenced the cheers of a crowd of 15,000.