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India coach Igor Štimac: I have asked my boys to enjoy the game

Head coach Igor Štimac and the Indian national team during a training session in Doha, Qatar. (Photo courtesy: AIFF Media)
Head coach Igor Štimac and the Indian national team during a training session in Doha, Qatar. (Photo courtesy: AIFF Media)

A day before India’s last match against Afghanistan in the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 Preliminary Joint Round 2 Qualifiers at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium, Doha, Indian National Team Head Coach Igor Stimac dismissed apprehensions that India may play out for a draw.

“I need to say that I don’t know any coach or any team who would come out playing for a draw,” Stimac stated at the official pre-match press conference today (June 14, 2021). India are currently placed on six points after seven matches in comparison to Afghanistan being on five points from seven games.

“Even that might seem to be a situation when you are facing much better sides. Then, you need to drop and defend for your life and wait for one, two or three chances to counter-attack like against Qatar. But, we are not going out to play for a draw. Rather, we will go out to win it,” the Head Coach averred.

“That’s what we are aiming to do. We need to start doing it from the kick-off. I know and am very confident that all our boys are ready and fit. They need to enjoy the game.”

Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu added: “I think it’s important for us to stay fresh and face this new challenge against a very good side. Afghanistan have good quality players who can manipulate the ball and convert if given the chance. So, we need to make sure that as players, we stick to the plan and that we make life difficult for the other team and try to finish with a smile.”

In Doha, a 10-man India went down by a solitary goal to Asian champions Qatar in their first match before beating Bangladesh 2-0 in their penultimate one.

Stimac did mention that the boys are confident after the victory against Bangladesh. “The result against Bangladesh makes us confident. We are very happy that with the three points against Bangladesh we secured getting out of the danger of playing in the play-offs. Afghanistan are a better side than Bangladesh, and it will not be easy,” Stimac explained.

“Afghanistan are full of players with international experience, and most of the players are playing in foreign leagues. You can recognise it when you gauge their confidence on the ball. But at the same time, we see our chance and need to go out on the pitch and play good football and to make sure we finish this tournament on a winning note.”

“As a coach, I have tried to prepare our team in the best possible way — to keep them motivated. Wearing the National Team jersey is the biggest motivation for any player, and it comes with a huge responsibility. You know how big a population is backing us, and whoever is wearing the Indian shirt has that unique chance to make the 1.4 billion people proud,” the coach quipped.

Gurpreet maintained that training in Doha did help the team a great deal in their quest to finish third in the group. “We came out here without much training. Playing three games in 13 days helps the players to gain experience and maturity. We are thankful for the QFA (Qatar FA) for letting us come earlier, assemble together, and that enabled us to prepare better.”

The kick-off on June 15 (Tuesday) is slated for IST 7.30 pm, and the match will be telecast live in India on the Star Sports Network and also be streamed live on Disney + Hotstar and Jio TV.

(AIFF Media)