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India upbeat despite late defeat to Oman

Guwahati: Head coach Igor Stimac and captain Sunil Chhetri are looking at the positives despite India falling to a heartbreaking late defeat to Oman in their opening Asian Qualifiers Group E match on Thursday.

Just when India started thinking Chhetri's 24th minute goal would be enough to claim the first three points of their bid to qualify for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023, Rabia Alawi Al Mandhar struck twice in the final eight minutes to secure the win for Oman at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati.

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"It is difficult to swallow. I think we didn't keep the ball in the second half. It's not easy if we keep giving the ball to a team like Oman. That's something we need to work on," said Chhetri, who took his goal tally for India to 72.

"Despite the defeat, the boys fought really well and we just have to keep on fighting.”

Up next for India are Qatar in Doha, which promises to be another tough 90 minutes for the South Asians after the AFC Asian Cup champions opened their campaign with a 6-0 win over Afghanistan on Thursday.

“It's probably the most difficult match, playing Qatar away in Doha. We are, however, looking forward to it.

"Every match is going to be like this (Oman), there will be a fight, no matter who we play. We have to make sure we don't repeat the small mistakes that cost us three points today.”

Head coach Stimac felt India deserved more from the match.

"I was repeating at half time 'don't let this go'. One silly mistake in the distance and it became two mistakes. We were punished. So late in the game to lose the points which could have given us points," said Stimac.

Praising his team’s display in the opening 45 minutes, the Croatian added, “I think we deserved more, at least a point for the first half. We dominated the first half. We created many chances and could have killed the game in the first half.”

Despite the defeat, Stimac said there were positives to build on.

“We have seen what the boys can do against a strong side like Oman. They showed quality and experience. They (Oman) were little bit lucky. The team gave everything.”

Photos: All India Football Federation

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