India created history by holding Asian champions Qatar to a goalless draw in an away fixture of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers played at the Al Sadd stadium, Qatar, on Tuesday.
Prior to that, the Blue Tigers opened their Group E campaign with a 2-1 defeat against Oman despite staying in the lead until the 82nd minute at Guwahati, India, on September 5.
In a chat with Goal, the 31-year-old spoke in defence of the criticism post the Oman loss where he claimed that India played better football than against Qatar.
"(Against Oman) Only in the last 10 minutes we made some mistakes. We (midfielders) did not drop down when we were supposed to, we (defenders) did not close down when we were supposed to. It was heart-breaking. I know that the entire nation was saddened because of that but I don't consider the loss due to lack of fitness," Khan asserted.
"Result wise, of course, people will talk about [the match against] Qatar but as a match I think we played better football against Oman than against Qatar," he added.
Despite the kind of prolific attack Qatar had, Khan denied that India were under any pressure whatsoever.
"There was no pressure," he said. "We knew what we had to do. We knew that if we make even a single mistake in the match, we would concede a goal. Everybody was communicating with each other and everybody was fighting because we didn't want to hear what we heard (after the match) against Oman."
"So this was our opportunity to prove ourselves and do something good for the nation to talk about," he remarked.
The former Delhi Dynamos player elucidated that the national team's improvement was for all to see as they performed a tactical masterclass in Doha."(After the Oman match) We were criticised saying that our defense is not good, fitness is not up to the mark. Against Oman was our first match (after the Intercontinental Cup) and soon after five days, we played against Qatar and you saw the result. There was not a single player who was getting tired, not a single player getting cramps or going down with his fitness," Khan reasoned.
Reaching half-time with the scoreline intact was in itself was a commendable feat for India, joining the likes of Lebanon, South Korea, Iraq, Brazil, Paraguay, Colombia and Argentina among the sides Qatar have failed to score against at half-time before becoming the first in Asia to keep a clean sheet against the Maroons in 2019.
"When we play against tough teams, once we don't allow to penetrate through the defense or midfield they get frustrated and start kicking the ball from anywhere. That is what happened against Qatar and this is how Gurpreet (Singh Sandhu) became a hero. They started shooting from the range of 25-to-30 yards which helped us to gain a little bit of position. We did not allow them to penetrate," Khan elucidated.
Revealing coach Igor Stimac's half-time pep talk, he mentioned, "We knew that they would go all out for 90 minutes. If we had to concede early, then it would have been a different story. At the half-time, the coach told us that if we do not concede in the first 30 minutes, we even have a chance to score a goal. He told us not to worry about possession because Qatar are the Asian champions."
Adil has made a come-back into the Indian national team fold after a gap of seven years. He last donned the India jersey at the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup in Nepal before the 2019 King's Cup in Thailand.
In 2015, he was out for over a year due to a PCL (Posterior cruciate ligament) injury, after which he began his road to recovery with stints at Lonestar Kashmir, Dempo SC and Churchill Brothers, eventually making his way into FC Pune City (now Hyderabad FC).
"I think I am a coluomn between the senior players and the young players right now. Seven years back, I camped with players like Clifford Miranda, Samir Naik, Karanjit Singh, Syed Rahim Nabi and all. They have done whatever they could do best for the country with the facilities that they had.
"Now, looking at this stage, I would request the entire nation to believe in this team. I don't know for how long I will be playing for the national team. I will give my best till when I can but I would like to wish the young players and hope they can make it to the World Cup," he went on.
"I can see a bright future for Indian football. With this coach and his ability, I think this team and the coach needs some time to give something to this nation," he concluded.