FIFA WC Qualifiers: ‘Injustice to my boys’, Stimac hits back at controversial Qatar’s goal vs India

Doha, June 12 (IANS) India men’s football team head coach Igor Stimac termed Qatar’s controversial equaliser in the FIFA World Cup Qualifier round 2 match as an injustice to his side as their dream to make the 2026 World Cup came crashing down to a heart-breaking end on Tuesday night.

India’s dreams of qualifying for the third round of the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers came to an end after they lost 2-1 against Asian Champions Qatar in a controversial manner.

The controversy took place in the 73rd minute when Qatar’s Youssef Ayman Farahat scored an equaliser under dubious circumstances. It started after Indian skipper and goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu saved a header from Yousef Aymen and the ball slipped through his legs to roll out of play.

The referee didn’t blow the whistle despite the Indian players not being in action, and the goal was allowed. The replays clearly showed how the ball had gone out of play, but the goal stood, helping Qatar level 1-1.

The Indian players vehemently protested the decision, claiming that the ball had already gone out of play before the goal was scored, but the referee did not budge.

“It’s kind of an injustice to my boys tonight because we were very close to winning this game and qualifying for the third round, but it didn’t happen. Congratulations to Qatar. I would say that both countries can be proud of their future because all the players showed enormous quality today. They played open football and it was obvious that both teams enjoyed the game. Many people will say that Qatar played with their reserve team. But our team is also not too old compared to Qatar,” said Stimac in the post-game conference.

A victory would have more than sufficed for the Blue Tigers to create history, with a place in the third round of the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers for the first time, alongside direct qualification for the 2027 AFC Asian Cup.

Now, India’s bid to make the continental tournament for the third successive time will take them to the Asian Cup Qualifiers Third Round, which is scheduled to begin in March 2025.

However, keeping all the drama behind Stimac added, “I would say that there is nothing to complain about my boys’ display today. They were fantastic. All Indian fans can be proud of their team today. We controlled the game for a major part, with a high press against a good Qatari team. You could say that the chances India had were better than Qatar’s.

Apart from the baffling Qatari equalizer, the Croatian also highlighted a few Indian shortcomings, particularly in the final third. “We should have scored thrice in the first half to kill the game, definitely,” he prompted. But there is something that is missing in Indian football, and that’s clinical reactions inside the box.

“Qatar were lucky tonight, especially because they came back from 0-1 with an irregular goal. I can confirm that now because I have seen the replay. The whole ball was out of play and the goal was given. It shouldn’t be happening in today’s football because that goal changed everything in this game,” he said.

“It could’ve happened to Qatar today and I would say the same. I’m not looking for an excuse. I feel sad that when you have 23 boys working really hard and living the dream, to achieve something, and that dream is killed because we didn’t stop such things from happening,” Stimac concluded.



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