Head coach Igor Stimac felt the two friendlies will help India prepare well for the SAFF Championships next month. “We are happy to be here and happy to be together again. These two international friendlies will help us prepare for the forthcoming SAFF Championship in the Maldives next month. I just know these games will be good and we need to learn on the pitch.”
“I hope that we don’t suffer heavy rains during the matches so that we can play some exciting football,” Stimac said. “We have analysed Nepal as an opponent and the kind of progress they made in the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers. They have put on display that they can play quality football and can defend as a team. My colleague has done a good job and there are a lot of young players in the squad.”
The talismanic India captain Sunil Chhetri is the crowd favourite. Right from landing at the airport to the team hotel to the practice sessions, locals request him for a click.
“I will admit that I have a soft corner for Nepal. But, it ends the moment I step on the pitch. My mom is from Nepal and whatever sporting culture and discipline has been inculcated is all because of my mom,” Chhetri said.
“Nepal has always made it very difficult for us on the football pitch, and we are not expecting anything less. Playing Nepal at home and outside Nepal are two different things, and let’s not forget that they are the home team here.”
Nepal coach Abdullah Almutairi admitted that he has worked a lot on “changing the mentality of his players.”
“I don’t want to make people happy, rather I want to make them proud. We have been training for the last two months and there are a lot of youngsters in the squad.
“Our target is to win the SAFF Championship in the Maldives, and eventually qualify for the AFC Asian Cup China 2023. We don’t care about FIFA Rankings. It will not be easy for them (India).”