India football team coach Igor Stimac has stated that he was brought on to change India’s style of play by pointing out how Blue Tigers played long ball football before he arrived on the scene. The Croatian also lamented the lack of injury replacements he has ahead of the next World Cup qualifiers.
India have definitely been playing a better brand of football at times since AIFF decided to hand over the reins of the team to Stimac after Stephen Constantine retired from the scene. And the new manager, who has been under fire of late after India’s poor World Cup campaign, decided to point out the changes he has brought to the team.
Explaining his vision to lead India to the 2026 World Cup, Stimac said, “Since then (the Asian Cup), we have adopted a totally different approach to the football we play. Before I took over the team, India were playing with six players at the back, going for long balls and trying to attack with four players upfront. I was brought into position to change that and we are in the process of building up a new Indian team for the future and we are concentrating on the World Cup 2026. It's a long process and a difficult one," he said, reported Goal.
India were stunned by two late goals by Oman in their own backyard after they dominated three-quarters of the match in their first qualifier. It was followed by an encouraging goalless draw at Qatar, which was lionized by one and all, before the Blue Tigers were held to a 1-1 draw by Bangladesh at home. And Stimac detailed what exactly happened in those matches.
"We have shown against Oman (2-1 loss), that we can play against a difficult team and it was a fantastic game. We went to Qatar (0-0) and kept a clean sheet. I think Afghanistan (losing 5-0) knows how difficult it is against the Asian champions.
"And our last game against Bangladesh (1-1) was not at that level of the first two but totally a different game because we were in a position to continuously attack a side who were playing with 10 players in front of their box. 74 per cent ball possession, 17 shots, some very good chances and I was happy about our plan execution but not happy to let Bangladesh two clear chances. That was the bad part of our game and we are working on resolving our issues," Stimac added.
Stimac has refused to recognize Afghanistan as a weak team as some of their players have played in Europe and both the sides have faced the higher-ranked sides. The Indian coach also praised their physical abilities.
"We both faced Qatar and we both played against Bangladesh, and I think both India and Afghanistan have similar qualities. I see the Afghanistan team as a strong and physical side with some of the players gaining experience in Europe. Of course, not the top leagues, but playing in Europe gives you an extra quality," said the coach of the Blue Tigers.
India would be without crucial players and with very little rest after Indian Super League went into a break only on November 10. Stimac, who has been complaining about the same for long now, however, chose to see the positives with the boost he got from Pronay Halder return to midfield.
"India is still not a team who can replace important players immediately. We lost the most important man in our backline (Sandesh Jhingan) and one of the best central midfield players (Amarjit Kiyam) and it's not easy to replace such players. So we suffer a little bit with these injuries but now I am happy that Pronay (Halder) is back in the team," he added.
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