PANAJI: Igor Stimac has been forced to alter his plans after discovering that captain Sunil Chhetri and two other players will be unavailable for the World Cup qualifier against Qatar at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium in Doha on Tuesday.
Stimac was happy with his team’s showing against Oman in the opener, even though they surrendered the momentum and lead, losing 1-2 in the dying minute last week. The former Croatia coach was expected to show faith in the same team, but Chhetri hasn’t trained for the last three days and two others are “completely exhausted.”
“We have Sunil with high fever for the last three days, so he is really doubtful. Then there are two or three players who are exhausted. We will have to take tough decisions,” Stimac told TOI on Tuesday.
Qatar have not lost to an Asian side in 2019, held Paraguay and stretched the likes of Brazil and Argentina to the limit this year. Against India, the hosts will be overwhelming favourites to repeat what they did to Afghanistan in the opener (6-0).
“We are expecting a tough encounter as Qatar are the Asian champions, but we have to stick to our plans, stay compact and play as a team,” said Stimac.
Qatar will be familiar territory for Stimac who spent a year at Al-Shahania SC. They were eventually relegated that season – Stimac took over the team after they won just one of their first 12 games – but a draw against giants Al Sadd (1-1) remained the highlight of his tenure.
“When I was taking Al-Shahania SC to face Al Saad (in the Qatar Stars League), players were joking whether we will concede six or seven (goals). But what matters is the approach to the game. We have to create a winning environment. That brings positivity to the dressing room,” said Stimac.