From cold temperatures of Tajikistan’s capital city of Dushanbe to pleasant weather conditions in Muscat, it is a change that the Indian football team would be certainly loving ahead of its qualifying match against Oman on Tuesday.
The Blue Tigers arrived in Muscat on Sunday morning after scraping to a last-minute draw, its third in a row, against Afghanistan in Dushanbe on Thursday. The Group E match of the joint 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup qualifiers will be played at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex (SQSC) and kick-off at 7pm.
At the midway stage with each teams having played four games each, Oman is currently second in the group with nine points, trailing leader Qatar by just a point. India, coached by Croatian Igor Stimac, is fourth in the five-team pool with just three points with Afghanistan at third with four and Bangladesh at the bottom with only one point.
Dutchman Erwin Koeman will hoping Red Warriors will capitalise on playing at home against India, which is still in search of its first win, having played three draws and the lone defeat coming against Oman in the north-eastern Indian city of Guwahati in September.
Two back-to-back away fixtures for Stimac’s India in varied weather conditions poses a challenge and the Croatian manager was quoted on the All India Football Federation (AIFF) website, www.the-aiff.com, that ‘acclimatising to Muscat conditions is our top priority right now’ after his team’s arrival via Dubai. “We have reached Muscat today. We have had a night stay in Dubai and it helped the players get a good rest,” said Stimac.
The team had a light training session in Muscat on Sunday evening. On the Oman match, Stimac said, “We know how tough the game will be and we have to make sure all players stay fit and deliver maximum on Tuesday.” He added, “My players are physically very fit and the players are not getting bogged down on the pitch or suffering cramps.
The recovery has been taken care of as per the plan, and that’s the reason, players have adapted to different weather conditions naturally.” Oman faced anxious moments in its away game against hosts India on September 5, before managing a late-winner for a 2-1 result. Koeman has predicted a tough game against the Blue Tigers despite his boys’ impressive 4-1 win against Bangladesh on Thursday.
“The Indian side is better balanced than Bangladesh and it will be a tough game,” said the Dutchman. Stimac reiterated that Oman is one of the ‘favourites in group’. “Qatar and Oman are two favourites in our group.
The difference between the other three (Afghanistan, Bangladesh and India) is very less.” The team also attended an official dinner reception hosted by the Indian Ambassador to Oman, H E Munu Mahwar, later on Sunday night.
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