After encouraging performances in their opening two 2022 World Cup qualifying matches wherein India were not favourites, head coach Igor Stimac has warned that Bangladesh are not a team to be taken lightly ahead of their next match.
India's third Group E game in the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers will take place in Kolkata on Tuesday. Stimac revealed his excitement in playing at the 'Mecca of Indian Football' and stressed the need to aim for nothing less than a win.
"I am very excited and happy to be here in the city of joy, the mecca of Indian football. Everyone is so excited to be here," Stimac began.
"There will be a lot of passion for the game. We know that we have somehow woken up everyone with our recent performances. We have shown that on our day we can play against anyone. In the first two games, we were not favourites. By now the whole pressure is on us. We have to win this game so that we have a chance to keep dreaming.
"I wouldn't like any of you to underestimate Bangladesh. That's not a good thing to do. Whenever we underestimate someone the result is not good. Bangladesh did a very good job against Qatar. They created more chances. They have their expectations and dreams. They have not come here to lose the match they have come here to win. Let's go into this game by being respectful to the Bangladeshi team."
Following a defeat to Oman in their first game, the Blue Tigers recorded a historic goalless draw against Asian Cup champions Qatar. Stimac has managed to bring about positive changes in the team since joining as head coach in the summer.
"I am very satisfied with what we have done in such a short time. It's not easy when you have such a big gap without competitive football. We had 20-25 days to prepare for these games and you can't expect radical changes. I was lucky that we found some great young players. They are great characters and are led by great leaders. Such a mixture of youth and experience has given us a chance to be what we are.
While India are regarded as favourites against Bangladesh, the Croatian boss feels India will have to work hard to come out victorious on Tuesday.
"Being favourite in a game is nothing. We proved that in Qatar. It's eleven players against eleven players. There are favourites and underdogs but that doesn't mean the favourite will win. It's about teamwork, it is about team building. Analyzing ourselves and asking ourselves what we can do. No point trying to analyse others. If we can work like this we will do well."
Stimac is keeping an eye on all the national team hopeful and has stated that the door is always open for senior team aspirants.
"I have some 40 players on my sheet. I am monitoring them. But the door is never closed for others. The Indian Super League (ISL) starts on October 20 and I am going to watch all the players. Our goal is not just these qualifiers. We have the 2026 World Cup in mind. We are working according to our aims and targets. In between, if we qualify for the next round we will grab it with both hands."
The head coach added that he is uncertain about India's next camp, which is scheduled in November, as the ISL kick-starts on October 20.
"I am worried about the November camp. We have to find a way so that the ISL clubs allow us to have a proper camp. Right now it is looking very uncertain."