India’s WC chances virtually over with 0-1 loss to Oman

India’s WC chances virtually over with 0-1 loss to Oman
India captain Sunil Chhetri shadows an Oman player during their World Cup qualifier in Muscat on November 19.
Muscat (Oman), Nov 20 (IANS) | Publish Date: 11/20/2019 11:47:09 AM IST

India slipped to their second defeat in the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers on Tuesday with a 0-1 loss against Oman at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex here.

The loss kept India in the fourth place in Group E with three points and virtually ended their chances of making it past the second round of the qualifiers.

The hosts were awarded an early penalty which striker Mohsin Al Ghassani shot wide. However, he went on to score what turned out to be the winning goal in the 33rd minute. Replays indicated that Al Ghassani may have been marginally offside.

However, there was little to show for India to argue that the decision affected their chances of winning the game. The few chances they made at the opposition goal hardly posed any threat to goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi.

India had to make two substitutions in the first half. Vinit Rai came on for the yellow carded Pranoy Halder in the 26th minute, while centre back Adil Khan had to be taken off due to an injury and Anas Edathodika took his place soon after India conceded. India had more possession in the second half, but hardly got any real chance on goal. Instead, it was Oman who arguably came closest to scoring when India goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu had to make a full stretch dive to save a venomously struck free-kick by Mohsin Al Khaldi.

This was the last World Cup qualifier to be played this year. India’s next matches in 2020 are at home against Qatar (March 26), away to Bangladesh (June 4) and at home against Afghanistan (June 9).

While their chances to go further in the qualifiers are all but over, India are still very much in the hunt for a berth in the 2023 Asian Cup qualifiers.

Want India to “play without fear”: Stimac

India national football team’s head coach Igor Stimac, after the narrow 0-1 defeat to Oman in Muscat, on Wednesday pronounced that he wants his team to “play without fear” against any opponent they face.

“I want my India (team) to play without fear against anyone. Irrespective of whoever you are playing against, you always have a chance to win the game. We need to grab that,” Stimac stated at the post-match press conference held at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex in Muscat.

He added: “If you are trying to change (your gameplan) according to your opponents, it shows your team’s weakness -- which is the last thing I would want for my team. We stick to our system and we are working on the players’ strengths and conditioning.”

The coach stated that India was the better team in the second half and while they have been doing good work in open play and creating opportunities to score, the lack of accuracy in the finishing is a problem they are facing.

“We were the better side in the second half but couldn’t find the way to score a goal. This is our main problem which has been haunting us always. We are moving well, we are fighting, we are doing what’s necessary but when we come inside the box, the decision making is not at par and the accuracy is not there as well. We need to get used to this, cut the numbers of mistakes down and try to get better results in the future,” he said.

The Croatian also congratulated the hosts on their win and added that his team has shown that they can compete against the likes of Oman.

“Congratulations to Oman. We wish them all the luck for the upcoming Gulf Cup in Qatar. Today, they had more chances, so they deserved to win. Oman is one level up compared to India but we are coming thick and fast. In the two games against them, we have shown that we can play against teams like Oman who have quality, who are physically strong as well as fast,” the coach expressed.

India’s hope of getting a positive result from Muscat got heavily affected when Pronay Halder and Adil Khan had to be substituted inside the first 40 minutes owing to injuries. Pronay, who suffered a shoulder injury, was replaced by Vinit Rai in the 27th minute whereas the coach introduced Anas Edathodika after withdrawing Adil Khan in the 36th minute.

“Today, our only player who is a tough tackler (Pronay) suffered a shoulder injury. He was the main player who could fight for the second ball and his absence killed us in the second half,” Stimac said.

Following this result, India’s position in the group E stays unchanged with three points from five matches. They are now scheduled to face reigning AFC Asian Cup champions Qatar at home in the return leg on March 26, 2020 in the next match of the qualifying round.

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