The India head coach interacted on Instagram on Tuesday.

The Indian National football team is set to play two International friendly matches during the march FIFA window against Myanmar and Krygyz Republic in Manipur, India. This is an important year for the Blue Tigers with many important tournaments scheduled in the upcoming months (Intercontinental Cup, SAFF Championship, Asian Games, and the Asian Cup). Ahead of the international friendlies, head coach Igor Stimac shared his thoughts on Indian Football and the preparations going forward.

Importance of Santosh Trophy

Santosh Trophy is one of the oldest tournaments in Indian football history and many current Indian players have been part of the tournament. The knockout stages of the tournament being held in Saudi Arabia to give players good exposure.

Players from the four qualified teams in Riyadh. (Courtesy: AIFF Media)

Igor Stimac said, “It is one of the vital tournaments for our future work and very soon tournaments like these need to become one of the important competitions in our country. I hope very soon it becomes what it was before helping for the betterment and progression of football. Playing it abroad will be significant for all the teams involved in the final stages. It is an amazing opportunity for the players getting to play under good infrastructure and gain exposure.”

Preparations ahead of International friendlies

India are set to play Myanmar and Kyrgyz Republic in the march FIFA window. These two games will start the preparations for the upcoming Asian Cup set to be played in January next year.

The head coach opined, “I am looking forward seriously to the upcoming games and it has been a long time since we have been together. Most of the Indian players are having a solid season if not a good one and selecting the players will become difficult as the competition is getting better every year.

He added, “We need to appreciate those who have shown improvement in the current ISL season. The ISL finals will be played on 18 March and the players involved in the finals might not feature in the friendlies this time. We start the camp on the 14th and will have a week’s time for preparation.”

Thoughts on Jeje’s retirement

Jeje Lalpekhlua has been a great servant to Indian football and was one of the highly-rated forwards in the ISL. The Mizo Sniper represented the Indian national team 56 times and scored 23 goals. The 32-year-old had to cut short his playing career due to injuries.

Jeje Lalpekhlua. (Courtesy: AIFF Media)

Igor Stimac rated Jeje highly and said, “First of all, it was great to see Jeje at the Marina Arena in Chennaiyin FC’s last league game. I enjoyed his company during the match but did not have the opportunity to coach him due to his injury. We miss a player like him very badly who has brilliant scoring abilities. I have good hope for the youngsters and someone might replace him soon.”

Assessment of Myanmar and Kyrgyz Republic

Kyrgyz Republic and Myanmar are ranked 94th and 159th respectively in the men’s FIFA ranking. The former has been in good form and will possess a good test against the Blue Tigers.

The 55-year-old iterated, “We cannot take any opponents easily and we are going to approach both games very seriously. Kyrgyz is a far better side with good quality than Myanmar and had good qualifiers recently. We are going to approach the game with a positive mindset and will be trying to dominate the opponents and break them down.”

Progress ahead of the AFC Asian Cup

India are set to play a good number of international matches in the upcoming months. Apart from the March FIFA window, the country is set to host the Intercontinental Cup and the SAFF Championship.

The head coach opined, “We haven’t started the preparations yet as we have hectic schedules with FIFA windows and the upcoming ISL season. We have to sit down with all the possible stakeholders and discuss the future work together and work out the calendar. As a national coach, it is not important for me to think about what will happen in the March, April, and September FIFA windows, rather focus on December if the Asian Cup starts in January 2024. In September we have the qualifiers for U-23 Asian Cup as well so it is going to be a hectic schedule but going forward we need to come up with a plan and execute them.”

Thoughts about the upcoming youngsters

Naorem Mahesh Singh. (Courtesy: ISL Media)

Many youngsters have made their presence felt with good performances in the current ISL season. Mehtab Singh, Naorem Mahesh Singh and Sivasakthi Narayanan from Mumbai City, East Bengal and Bengaluru FC have been the standout performers. 

Igor Stimac was hopeful about youngsters getting opportunities. He said, “They will be involved in the wide list in the future. They will be involved in the preparation for the June FIFA window, Intercontinental Cup and the SAFF Championships. Mahesh had an excellent ISL season and to play in such a manner when East Bengal haven’t produced good results shows how good he is. Also shining for one season shouldn’t be enough rather he shall perform consistently.”

For more updates, follow Khel Now on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and join our community on Telegram.