Upbeat with the return of talismanic striker Sunil Chhetri in their ranks, India still have a tough task at hand when they face higher-ranked Jordan in an international football friendly match on Saturday.
The 37-year-old Chhetri last played for India during their 3-0 win over Nepal in the SAFF Championships final in October 2021, but since then was sidelined due to injuries.
The match is India’s last preparatory outing ahead of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers which kicks off in Kolkata on June 8.
Jordan is placed 91st against 106th of India in the FIFA rankings.
“Another game against a stronger team will always help,” head coach Igor Stimac said about the team which reached Doha on Wednesday.
“It’s our last friendly game prior to qualifiers, and we need to get final answers to certain questions. Some of our youngsters will have a great opportunity to gain more experience at the international level,” he added.
The squad has been in a preparatory camp for over a month, first in Bellary in Karnataka and then in Kolkata, and the coach said that the fitness levels of his players “are quite good”.
“We have another 10 days (before the Asian Cup qualifiers), and it should be perfect. The boys have done a great job, and they need to be rewarded with some good results in the Qualifiers,” Stimac said.
About Jordan as an opposition team, the coach said: “Jordan are ranked better than Belarus (FIFA Ranking 93) but are not as physical as Belarus. So for us, it should be a bit easier in regards to the build-up and ball possession.
The ‘Blue Tigers’ had played against Belarus in the FIFA International window in March, a match where they went down 0-3.
The Indian squad has been bolstered by the joining of the ATK Mohun Bagan players, who missed the preparatory camp owing to their club commitments in the AFC Cup.
“They came very late (on May 26, 2022 morning) after playing 3 games in 7 days, and hence, we need to be careful with them. We still have over 36 hours ahead for them to recover and I will be making a decision whether to field them or not on the 28th morning,” Stimac said.
The match Starts at 9:30 pm IST.