Veteran Indian defender Anas Edathodika has returned to the national squad against Oman after he missed the Afghanistan game last week due to his mother's demise. Coach Igor Stimac expressed his happiness with his return while Sunil Chhetri and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu praised Anas for his commitment.
India will face Oman at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex Stadium in Muscat on Tuesday in a crucial Group E fixture at the FIFA World Cup 2022 and Asian Cup 2023 joint qualifiers. India are currently fourth in the table and are desperate for a win to keep their faint qualification hopes alive. Meanwhile, group favourites Oman are confident after the gulf nation had the last laugh when they last faced India in Guwahati.
India, in their last two draws against Bangladesh and Afghanistan, have struggled in the defence with the absence of star defender Sandesh Jhingan quite visible. Moreover, veteran Anas Edathodika's absence due to his mother's demise added furthermore burden on Stimac's men. However, the defender returned to the national squad in Oman, six days after his mother's demise. Coach Igor Stimac expressed his excitement with Anas's return.
"We suffer from time to time when players get injured or due to other problems. He (Anas) had to leave the camp and go back before the Afghanistan game, as his mother passed away," Stimac told reporters at the pre-match conference, Sportstar reported.
After the Asian Cup in UAE, Anas had announced his retirement from international football before he was called back to the national after Stimac took over. “He came back to serve his country (even after retirement) and I am happy as a coach to have players like him in our team,” Stimac added.
Meanwhile, talisman Sunil Chhetri present with the coach praised Anas for his strength. "It is pure strength shown by our experienced Anas-bhai. I can only imagine how difficult it must be for him and the grief inside him. I hope staying with the team and playing football helps him in the process," Sunil Chhetri said.
India's custodian Gurpreet Singh Sandhu also hailed Anas's unparalleled commitment. "I was very sorry to hear about his loss, it is a difficult time for him and his family. My prayers are with him. His commitment to the National Team is unparalleled and something that fuels our desire to go out there and play our hearts out," Sandhu said.
India’s number one goalkeeper also expressed his excitement to be playing against his idol and Oman’s captain Ali Al-Hasbi. “I idolise him and I have trained with him as well. He is among the best people I know in football. He has provided great service for Oman. I wish him all the luck and I hope he does well in his career.” Gurpreet added.
“We have come here to play to the best of our capabilities. We are a tough team to play against. We need to go out there and make sure that we do our jobs. Oman are a difficult side to play against but in the recent years, we have grown as well. We need to play to our full strengths and hope to get a result tomorrow,” he concluded.