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2022 World Cup Qualifiers: Igor Stimac blasts criticism over fitness after heroic Qatar draw

3:50 AM SGT 11/9/19
Igor Stimac India DPR Korea Intercontinental Cup 2019
The Indian coach also expects a full house in Kolkata when India take on Bangladesh in their third World Cup qualifying game on October 15...

After India's landmark 0-0 draw against Asian champions Qatar in their 2022 World Cup qualifier match on Tuesday, Blue Tigers' head coach Igor Stimac took a potshot at those who criticised his team's fitness levels.

After India were beaten 2-1 by Oman in their campaign opener, with both Oman goals coming in the final eight minutes, a lot was made of India's lack of concentration in the latter stages of matches recently.

The former Croatian international, understandably happy after his team scripted history by registering a goalless draw away from home against Asian Cup champions Qatar, took the opportunity to assert that his team's fitness was never a problem.

He said, "You see, I cannot reply to each comment after a game because not many people are well educated about football. We are a fit team and we proved it today. We played against Qatar and we made space for ourselves even in the last minutes. We made sprints even in the 95th minute, showing a lot of concentration. So we showed good fitness today."

The Indian coach did not want complacency to creep in his side after the historic result. He mentioned that his boys must keep their head in the right place and move on.

Stimac said, "As a coach, I don’t have time to waste in thinking too much higher than it was a few days ago when we lost to Oman. Still today as a coach, of course, I am more than happy to get a point against the reigning champions of Asia. We need to improve in certain areas, on the other hand, all congratulations not just to my players but also for Qatar. There was excitement in front of both goals, of course."

He did mention that while India did extremely well to get a point, Qatar dominated the game and would feel they deserved more.

"Qatar deserved more from this game. They created more chances today but we also had many chances. It was a great experience for us. All credits to my players, I am very proud of my players. But the message to the team is to keep yourself down as it is just a point."

An ecstatic Igor Stimac appealed to the Indian fans in Kolkata to come in numbers and cheer for the national team when they take on Bangladesh in their third World Cup qualifier match on October 15.

A large number of away fans turned up in support of the national team in Qatar but Stimac demanded 80,000 Kolkata fans to turn up against Bangladesh.

Speaking about the fan support, Stimac said, "Our country has a population of over 1.3 billion people compared to that this was a very small crowd. I want to see 80,000 people in Kolkata against Bangladesh. We deserve that and they need to come and support us."