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Indian players credit coach Igor Stimac after ‘unthinkable’ Qatar draw

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Indian players credit coach Igor Stimac after ‘unthinkable’ Qatar draw

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SportsCafe Desk


India held defending Asian Champions Qatar to a goalless draw on Tuesday at the Jassmin Bin Hamad Stadium in Doha. The players have praised their Croatian coach Igor Stimac who took charge of the team in May 2019 after the hard-fought impressive performance which saw them walk away with a point.

Asian champions Qatar was held to a 0-0 draw in a FIFA World Cup (WC) Qualifier match by an Indian side without its captain Sunil Chhetri and the players in unison credited the result to head coach Igor Stimac.

Igor Stimac, who coached Croatia to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, took charge of the Indian National football team in May this year. As a player, with 53 international caps under his sleeve, the Croatian was a part of the golden generation of his country which finished third in the 1998 WC in France.

Recalling the disappointing Oman result, Indian forward Mandar Rao Desai praised the coach for instilling positivity within the team when it was needed.

"After the Oman result, it was not easy to play against Qatar. However, coach motivated us all the time. He brought in a lot of positivity which was so crucial as everyone was low on morale,” Desai told Sportstar

“That’s what good coaches are capable of – lifting up the spirits with their belief, and confidence," he added.

The AIFF men’s Emerging Footballer of the 2018-19 season, Sahal Abdul Samad, who was omnipresent in the midfield, lauded the team effort that led to the end result. 

“This is quite unbelievable and we played as a team. We defended well in the first half. That was important as we were facing the best team in Asia. At the interval, the coach told us to come out and attack, and enjoy our football. That motivated us further. We played it around, and stretched them while maintaining our shape all throughout,” the 22-year-old said. 

21-year-old midfielder Anirudh Thapa regarded the result as the most memorable moment in his career.

“I'm glad that we could come here to their home and return with points. The coach has changed everything – things we do on and off the pitch. We are all so happy for him. I am happy we were able to make him proud with our performance,” Thapa said..

31-year-old centre-back Adil Khan who led by example credited the whole team for the result. Khan also explained the difference he felt in the set-up of the team pre and post Stimac’s appointment.

"Stimac is building a good team. We are making good progress under him. I hope more and more fans start believing in him after this performance. I can't control my emotions. I am getting goosebumps even thinking of the result. The self-belief in the team defines everything. I was in the national team some seven years back, but it is a different set-up now,” Khan said.

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