Muscat: Oman head coach Erwin Koeman sounded a confident yet cautious note ahead of the team’s match against India in the 2022 Fifa World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup Preliminary Joint Qualification second round match at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex on Tuesday. “We know India. They were the better team in their last match against Afghanistan.
We know their strengths and weaknesses. We have good understanding of their game and we feel we are the better team. We are confident but do not want to underestimate India. If we do, we have a problem,’’ Koeman added. Koeman stated the ‘Red Warriors’ focus will be on pocketing three points from the match and consolidating their position in the group. “Our aim is to get three points. Our first game in Guwahati was without practice and it was a difficult match for us. But now we have better fitness and tomorrow will be a much more competitive game as the players of both teams have played league matches. If you play two games in three days, it is tough.
There will be some changes,’’ the Dutchman stated. India’s head coach Igor Stimac asserted the visitors’ upbeat mood after their hard-fought 1-1 draw against Afghanistan in Dushanbe last week. “In football, you play to win and that is why you take the field. We have great respect for Oman and they are a very strong side. I just hope in tomorrow’s game we can play a good game of football. Hope the players enjoy the game,’’ he added. Stimac delved on India’s ability to score in the dying stages of the game and also concede in the latter stages as well. “Well, this is football. We have to be prepared to concede and score goals. India are coming back from behind to score. It shows the character of the team and shows that they have good attitude and good resistance. Gaining a point against Qatar in Qatar was the greatest game in Indian football,’’ he added.
Stimac felt the Indian national team has a responsibility in attracting and bringing Indian fans to the stadiums and that shows in the way they approach their games, home or away. “Promoting Indian football and creating a great atmosphere for the Indian team is a responsibility for us. Guwahati and Kolkata were examples. India is a giant that will wake up and it is only a matter of time,’’ he added. We have improved a lot as a team since the last World Cup qualifiers where we had seven losses. Now, we have three draws and one loss after four games and that is an improvement.
It takes time to start winning games,’’ Stimac added. India’s star goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was optimistic about the chances of the team and was also respectful of Oman’s abilities. “I can only say that we are here to play to the best of our abilities. We will make sure that we go out there and do our jobs. Oman is a very good side but in recent years we have grown as well,’’ the tall Indian custodian said. Oman have nine points from four matches and are positioned second in Group E behind Qatar, who top the group with ten points from four games. India are fourth in the group with three points from four games and are behind Afghanistan who have four points from as many matches.
Special praise for India’s Anas Edathodika
India’s coach Igor Stimac has praised the character of Anas Edathodika, who has joined the team for the game against Oman after the passing away of his mother during the camp before the Afghanistan game. “We suffer from time to time when players get injured or due to other problems. He (Anas) had to leave the camp and go back before the Afghanistan game, as his mother passed away,” said Stimac. “But I want to mention that he has come back to serve the country. I have players like him in our team and I’m proud of them. His return boosts the team,” he added.