Lack of action will make picking team difficult: Anirudh Thapa
(Sourced from PTI)
Indian midfielder Anirudh Thapa on Tuesday said that Head Coach Igor Stimac will find it difficult to pick the team for the upcoming World Cup Qualifiers in Qatar as there has been very little football in the last two months. Due to the raging COVID-19 pandemic, only two matches were possible—the international friendlies against Oman and Qatar on March 25 and March 29.
"It will be difficult for players also. Not playing for long could be at the back of our minds, the injury concerns, all these could be there," Thapa said. The players are serving quarantine at a hotel in the national capital and they are expected to leave for Qatar on Wednesday. They are awaiting the results of their RT-PCR tests for COVID-19.
In Qatar, the team will be in a bio-bubble and will train before the first game against Qatar on June 3. On June 7, the team will play against Bangladesh, and on June 15 against Afghanistan. India, fourth in Group E points table, is out of the reckoning for a 2022 World Cup berth but remains in contention for the 2023 Asian Cup.
Regarding fitness of the players, Thapa said, "We get fitness programs every day and we have been following them. So, we are fit and hoping to give our best. We were also told there could be matches coming up and to be mentally ready."
Thapa said, "World Cup qualifiers are big matches. We are representing the country and that is motivation enough to give our best." The 23-year-old, however, admitted that the players are not immune to the unprecedented chaos and devastation the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has brought upon the country. "It is difficult times but we have to remain mentally strong," he added.
India played out a 0-0 draw against reigning Asian Champions Qatar in Doha in the first leg in 2019. After that impressive show, India could not win against Bangladesh (at home) and Afghanistan (at neutral venue), playing out identical 1-1 stalemates.
Regarding the areas of improvement for the team against Qatar, Thapa said, "We have to create more scoring chances, score more goals." "Against Qatar (in first leg), we played a different style of football. Against Afghanistan and Bangladesh, we played possession football but could not create chances and score goals. That is what we are lacking and that is our main concern," he added.
Thapa attributed the 0-6 thrashing by UAE, in the international friendly on March 29, to the inexperience of the rookie players. Stimac had given debuts to more than 10 players in the two international friendlies in March. "Nobody was expecting the result. The coach was disappointed and told us we need to work harder," he added.