Indian football team

India's football coach Igor Stimac (3rd left) and the players leave the field after their FIFA World Cup 2026 qualifying match against Qatar in Doha on Tuesday, June 11. Photo: X/@IndianFootball

FIFA WC qualifier, India vs Qatar: Our dream 'killed by irregular goal': Igor Stimac

Doha, Jun 12 (PTI) India football coach Igor Stimac said "injustice" was done and his team's "dream was killed" by the blatantly "irregular" goal that allowed Qatar to claw back and clinch the must-win World Cup qualifying match here.

India suffered a 1-2 defeat at the home of the two-time Asian champions to bow out of contention from the third round of qualification for the 2026 World Cup. The visitors were leading 1-0 before Qatar scored the contentious equaliser by dragging the ball back after it had crossed the line to go out of play.

"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," Stimac didn't mince words as he spoke about what went wrong in the game.

"It shouldn't be happening in today's football because that goal changed everything in this game. 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," the Croat added.

The loss, however, cannot hide the fact that India have been consistently poor in their campaign, the lowest point being a home loss to Afghanistan. But on Tuesday, which was India's first game after the talismanic Sunil Chhetri's retirement, Stimac said his players gave their everything and he had no complaints.

"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," he said.

Apart from the baffling Qatari equaliser, Stimac also highlighted a few Indian shortcomings.

"We should have scored thrice in the first half to kill the game definitely," he said.

"But there is something which is missing in Indian football, and that's clinical reactions inside the box," he pointed out.

Qatar's equaliser by Yousef Aymen in the 73rd minute took the wind out of India's sails, totally turning the momentum in the hosts' favour, who completed the comeback in the 85th minute with a brilliant Ahmed Al-Rawi long-ranger that Gurpreet Singh Sandhu couldn't have done much about.

A victory would have given India 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.

"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 the Qatari team," Stimac said. PTI

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Federal staff and is auto-published from a syndicated feed.)
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