Igor Stimac is rarely a man of few words but on the eve of the Indian men’s football team flying out to take part in the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, the 56-year-old was finding it hard to find the words, looking visibly frustrated.
“We have flight at 10 pm today, reach Hong Kong at 7 am. Take another flight to Hangzhou, reach at 5 pm. We will give tactical preparation at airport or flight. We will not have a single training session before the game against China. We need to let players rest after we reach,” Stimac said in an interaction with the media on Sunday.
“Not thinking too much about the China game. Thinking about the Bangladesh and Myanmar games. Don’t be surprised if I leave out Sunil and Jhingan out for the first game against China,” he added.
Stimac would be rushing to the airport at the end of the interaction. The Indian men’s team will, in fact, be playing mere hours after landing in Hangzhou, probably without any training sessions.
Let alone preparation, picking the squad was a headache for Stimac.
When asked if he was happy about the squad that will play in China, Stimac says: “From a point of asking for a training camp it has come to a point where we need to be happy with getting the players just before kick-off. It’s a disservice to the national team. The things I was asking for, I wasn’t asking for myself. I am asking for India.”
Stimac also promised answers to what has been happening in Indian Football in the last few months after the end of the Asian Cup.
“What I have in my mind is the World Cup qualifiers you need to understand so I need to be very wise in regard to making decisions how to use those senior players, especially after the three games as a package,” Stimac said.
“This tournament mostly to those players who are primary as a great, great challenge for them to prove themselves to improving that they deserve in ISL and their clubs an opportunity,” he added.
In terms of the balance of the final squad, Stimac said India does not have any regular full-backs in his side is short on players in mid-field, and may be forced to use his abundant wingers.
Dismissing the idea that India are just participating in Asian Games as a formality, given there has been so much controversy over picking the squad, Igor Stimac fired back: “No tournament is formality for me.“
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When asked about India’s chances at the Asian Games, Stimac said: “We can get out of the group but we also need some luck and the boys need to play their best football. It’s not a question of difference in quality between different Indian players, it’s a question of how much time a set of players are allowed to be brought into a coach’s philosophy.”
Indian men’s football team will open their campaign against China on September 19 and will then face Bangladesh on September 21 and Myanmar on September 24 in the group stage. The top two teams from the six groups will make it to the pre-quarterfinals, with four best-ranked third-placed sides also qualifying.
first published: September 17, 2023, 16:04 IST