So far, somehow, Igor Stimac hasn’t done enough to get his players to play as a team. Can the next three games change perception?
Indian soccer during a training session. Image Courtesy: Twitter @IndianFootball
It’s time again for the Indian men’s soccer team to take on the trials and tribulations of FIFA World Cup qualifying. For practical reasons, the final goal is of course not about qualifying for the main event in Qatar. The ultimate goal of head coach Igor Stimac and his team is to finish third in the group and advance to the third round of qualifying for the AFC Asian Cup. You can finish fourth and automatically secure a place in the third qualifying round, but you must be in the top four fourth place finishers. If the goal is not reached, the team then has to go through a playoff round.
India is currently fourth in its group behind Qatar, Oman and Afghanistan. You have three points from five games, two more than Bangladesh. Three wins from the remaining three games would be a dream. But here too, for practical reasons, Stimac would aim at at least two victories – against Bangladesh (June 7) and Afghanistan (June 15). A draw against World Cup hosts Qatar (June 3rd), which this team has achieved in the past, will boost their self-confidence.
Speaking of self-confidence, the Indian team and the head coach need it urgently. The arrival of Stimac has skyrocketed the expectations of a country giant that is constantly waiting to be awakened and approach football glory. To be fair, the surge in expectations isn’t just due to Stimac’s appointment. India had a good run to qualify for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup and then played good football in the continental tournament. The board thought the Croatian was going to take the team to the next level and it seemed like they had a plan. But here we are, two years since he took office, India had only one win in 12 games, a win over Thailand in 2019. The pandemic made it difficult for Stimac, but now that he signed an extension to September is the head coach knows the task ahead. Help India finish third in their group and hope for another extension.
The Indian team played two friendly matches in March. They drew 1-1 with Oman but suffered a 6-0 humiliation against the UAE. Stimac gave chances to a number of players who impressed last season in the Indian Super League. What the team missed, however, was the services of the ever-reliable Sunil Chhetri due to COVID-19. This time around, Stimac will have Chettri in his ranks and the head coach will have to rely heavily on his captain, especially against Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
The national team has relied on Chhetri for years and his goals have proven to be very meaningful. Stimac’s reign didn’t answer the lack of strikers in the national team question and he won’t look for it in the upcoming games either. He hopes Chhetri will provide the best answers, as he has done for years.
A point against Qatar is not out of the question and if the team can tie it then that is a good sign for them important games against Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu made a remarkable performance in the last encounter between these two teams in 2019 against Qatar, but recently conceded six goals. Gurpreet has faced competition from Amrinder Singh for some time but the Bengaluru FC goalkeeper is expected to appear in all three games. And it would be the right decision. As with Chhetri, the Indian team relied on Gurpreet’s skills to create something special. Although both players have little game experience and have not had a great season at their club, their experience, skill and leadership skills are vital to the team.
In recent years Indian players have improved dramatically when it comes to the pace of work goes down during the games. Fitness has increased and can make a difference against superior teams like Qatar. Midfielders Glan Martins and Rowllin Borges are prime examples of their relentlessness in midfield. While Borges has played in the national team for some time, Martins was exceptional with FC Goa in the ISL and AFC Champions League. Stimac knows that his midfield, which includes names like Bipin Singh, Lalengmawia (Apuia), Anirudh Thapa, Brandon Fernandes and Pronoy Halder, can offer physicality and speed. India won’t play an open game against Qatar, but creatively it makes sense to unleash Apuia and Brandon against Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
In front of goal, Manvir Singh is the obvious choice alongside Chhetri. If there are no injuries, both should start all three games with Ishan Pandita being the option from the bench. Again, Manvir’s work rate can be a huge plus for Stimac and it’s not too bad when it comes to the finish.
It is evident that India is not ideally prepared for the due to the massive disruption from the pandemic and quarantine conditions Had qualifications. Most of the Indian players in the squad, aside from Goa FC, haven’t played since March so lack of playing time could be a big factor.
Also, the team under Stimac struggled to keep their plan on the field to implement. Often times, the players were not really comfortable with their roles and the lack of control was very evident. Sure, developing an identity for a national soccer team is not easy and the pandemic era has just made it difficult for the head coach. But so far, somehow, Stimac hasn’t done enough to get its players to play as a team. Can the next three games change perception? We’ll see.
“Almost everyone I speak to always reminds me of the game against Qatar. But if you ask me, that’s not my best performance so far. I understand that we will have one against Qatar Have achieved a result – and therefore it will always be that way. ” remain a highlight, “said Gurpreet.
” Everyone knows what it means for Indian football. Each of our players understands what it means to have Sunil back on the team and on the pitch. They will be with more courage He trains in every training session as if he were 25 and plays as if he were 25, “said Stimac when asked about Sunil Chhetri.
” In the first leg it was very tough and close. but despite all the dominance we couldn’t score. There were certain aspects that didn’t work in our last game against India. We have worked on that and we hope to be able to implement them on the field, “said Felix Sanchez, Qatar head coach.
Defenders: Pritam Kotal, Rahul Bheke, Narender Gehlot, Chinglensana Singh, Sandesh Jhingan, Adil Khan, Akash Mishra, Subhashish Bose.
Midfielders: Udanta Singh, Brandon Fernandes, Liston Colaco, Rowllin Borges, Glan Martins , Anirudh Thapa, Pronoy Halder, Suresh Singh, Lalengmawia, Abdul Sahal, Mohammad Yasir, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Bipin Singh, Ashique Kuruniyan.
The India-Qatar game starts on June 3rd at 10.30pm IST. The game will be broadcast on Star Sports 2 / Star Sports 2 HD, Star Sports 1 Hindi / Star Sports 1 Hindi HD, Star Sports 3. You can also follow the game’s live updates on our blog at www.firstpost.com.
June 03, 2021 9:34:09 AM IST
India’s first game will be against hosts Qatar on June 3, followed by games against Bangladesh (June 7) and Afghanistan (June 15).
In the run-up to the FIFA World Cup qualification, Indian soccer coach Igor Stimac speaks about India’s difficulties in preparing for the tournament, his team’s chances of qualifying for the 2023 Asian Cup and more.
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