India are fresh from a monumental result, having earned a point against the finest side in Asia. A 0-0 draw against Qatar away from home followed a heartbreaking 2-1 defeat to Oman which resulted from a lack of concentration in the death despite a strong first-half performance.
The defeat was surely hard to take and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu echoed the thoughts of the dressing room when he explained that the result against Oman was disappointing.
“I think not getting the desired result (against Oman) was disappointing for us but now we have to focus on the next challenge and we are sure all the team members are looking forward to playing against a very good Qatar side and make sure we put up a good show,” he said.
It was now up to the custodian and his team-mates to live up to these words on the pitch against a side that defeated every Asian team they faced this year.
That Brazil, Argentina and Colombia were the only teams to maintain a clean-sheet against the Asian champions this year provided a perspective as to what the Blue Tigers were up against. Unlike India, none of these teams had lost their previous game before they faced Qatar. This shows that India’s feat was unique, given they had to pick themselves from a defeat at home and were without the services of several stars including Sunil Chhetri.
The 0-0 draw, hence serves as a testimony to the mentality of the Indian team that kicked off their quest to rectify their away record in tremendous fashion.
India have always had a poor record in away games. Their win against Thailand in the King’s Cup and Asian Cup this year are the only two instances where the team collected all three points on foreign soil in the last two years.
Other results included a 3-1 defeat to Curacao, 2-1 defeat to Jordan, Maldives and the Kyrgyz Republic and goalless draws against Oman and China. Qatar are a clear notch above these teams and an away draw in an official competition with their best players pushing for a win has to stand out as India’s best result ever.
Most importantly, it was encouraging to see that Igor Stimac’s men started pushing for all three points once they realised they were inching towards a draw and frustrating the hosts. This was the same team that conceded two goals in the last 10 minutes less than a week ago. Against Qatar, they were pouring men forward when the occasion presented itself while remaining cautious at the back.
The winning mentality that Stimac has instilled in his players should emerge as one of the biggest positives from the qualifiers so far. The Indian players promised a fight against the Asian champions before the game and they lived up to their word.