Dear India, that's my team & those are my boys: Chhetri

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Against all odds, India, ranked 103rd in the world, staved off 62nd-ranked Qatar for 90 minutes without the services of star forward and captain Sunil Chhetri, who was indisposed. The hard-earned draw is less than what Asian heavyweights Japan, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates managed against Qatar this year.

"So, against Qatar it was very scary (thinking India may concede late goals) but in the end they were able to keep their nerves and did not commit any mistake". However, Stimac himself has called the team's performance "an invitation to the next match".

The Indian team, under new coach Igor Stimac, had a disappointing start to the campaign last week as they suffered a narrow 1-2 loss against Oman at home.

And a defeat against Asian champions Qatar (playing their second game at home), would dampen India's chances of finishing in the top two in their group and qualifying for the next round of World Cup qualifiers.

Even though the hosts threw everything at India, the visitors - led by goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu - stood tall against incessant waves of attack to play out a goalless draw against a team ranked 41 places above them in the Federation Internationale de Football Association rankings.

World Cup Qualifiers India vs Qatar match in action
World Cup Qualifiers India vs Qatar match in action

At the final whistle, the team celebrated a famous result with the sold-out away section inside the stadium. In September 2007, Qatar dominated India in their World Cup qualifiers convincingly with a 6-0 lopsided victory. And it was no surprise that Qatar's first real chance came from a set-piece. "So we showed good fitness", Stimac said.

India play their third Group E match against Bangladesh in Kolkata on 15 October, followed by games against Afghanistan (away match) on 14 November and Oman (in Muscat) on 19 November.

Stimac himself was generous in his praise of the Qatar team, who had every statistic of the match in their favour apart from the scoreline.

They have had most of the ball and all the big chances while India have not even had a shot at the Qatari goal in the first half. "I want to see a full house at the YBK Stadium for our match against Bangladesh", Stimac told IANS. All credit to my players and I'm really proud of them. "We deserve that and they need to come and support us", Stimac signed off.

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