A surprise dinner outing after the defeat against Oman followed by a pep talk by head coach Igor Stimac lifted the spirit of the players to an extent that they dished out India’s best performances in recent times — a draw with mighty Qatar in a FIFA World Cup qualifying match — exactly a year ago.

Key players like defender Sandesh Jhingan and goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu revealed how the gesture of the coach stirred the players to do well against Qatar.

On September 10 last year, India held the reigning Asian champion Qatar to a memorable goal-less draw in Doha.

Five days prior to the game, India lost 1-2 in Guwahati to Oman — conceding twice in the last 10 minutes after taking the lead through skipper Sunil Chhetri in the first half.

“The coach told us he wants to take us out for dinner (after game against Oman) and it came as a slight surprise to us. Looking back at it now…

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