India football head coach Igor Stimac has conceded that unfamiliar astro-turf, sub zero temperatures will make their FIFA 2022 World Cup qualifying match against Afghanistan at Dushanbe, Tajikistan a tough encounter.

India, fourth in Group E, have just two points after consecutive draws against Asian champions Qatar and Bangladesh. The away fixture against Afghanistan on November 14 is crucial for India to remain in the hunt in the World Cup qualifying. The Afghans are placed third in the group with one win and two losses, a notch above India who have two draws and a defeat so far.

“The climatic condition in Dushanbe is very different from what we have experienced in India at this time. It’s very cold and mercury level drops to closer to sub-zero,” Stimac told PTI in an interview on Tuesday.

“Moreover, the match is scheduled on an artificial turf which our players are not used to. Afghanistan have chosen the venue to make others’ life difficult and we have an uphill task in front of us to overcome it,” he added.

To make matters worse, there’s no direct flight to Dushanbe. The team also had to leave after the November 10 Indian Super League (ISL) match involving Bengaluru FC where the talismanic Sunil Chhetri and some key players ply their trade.

The team will reach Dushanbe on Wednesday, just a day before the match.

“The journey and flight itinerary is a tedious one. We have reached Dubai last night and have a morning training session here this morning. We are leaving for Dushanbe this evening only and reaching there tomorrow (November 13),” said the Croatian tactician.

“So, it will be a tricky fixture. As professionals, we have to adapt to newer challenges and everyone including AIFF is putting their best effort together. I’m optimistic that boys will put together their efforts to churn out a positive result against Afghanistan.”

Stimac said a victory against Afghanistan will boost his side and will help build the momentum for the clash against Oman in the away matches in Muscat on November 19.

“We have improved a lot since our first game (against Oman). We can show what we are capable of without our key players sometimes (defender Sandesh Jhingan and midfielder Rowlin Borges). The result against Afghanistan in Dushanbe will have a major impact on the entire team. A win will boost our confidence by manifold before we head to Muscat.”