Indian Football Team

Debutant Naorem Mahesh ‘big surprise’ for India coach Igor Stimac in win over Myanmar

M Sudharshan

March 22 2023
Igor Stimac India Myanmar

The Blue Tigers’ head coach also spoke on the crow support and starting Sunil Chhetri.

India defeated Myanmar 1-0 in the opening encounter of the tri-nation friendly tournament at the Khuman Lampak stadium in Manipur. Anirudh Thapa scored the lone goal for India in the 45th minute and was the standout performer. Igor Stimac’s side could have scored more goals but were denied a clear penalty and also had a goal chalked off for offside wrongly.

The Blue Tigers start the tournament maintaining a clean-sheet and will take on higher ranked Kyrgyzstan Republic on 28th March.

The post-match press conference was attended by head coach Igor Stimac and Anirudh Thapa.

Thoughts on the performance

India scored the opening goal just before the completion of the first half. The midfield was an area of concern along with the defence. The hosts could have scored more goals but the referee disallowed on goal and objected to a clear-cut penalty.

The head coach opined, “It was a good football game and everybody could enjoy the quality of football. It was a close game because of only one reason the referee as he did not give a clear-cut penalty. For me the result tonight is 3-0, not 1-0.

“I cannot say anything to my players as they did everything we agreed upon. We need to work on few defensive situations and not give away easy fouls in dangerous positions. Overall we won the game and it was a clean-sheet. Goalkeeper Amrinder Singh was excellent tonight and Sunil was unfortunate not to score.

“He could have scored a hat-trick and was hungry to score. Thanks to the supporters and the govt. for organizing a ceremony before the start of the game.”

Watch Full Press conference


Mehtab Singh and Naorem Singh made their debut for the national team against Myanmar. Mehtab looked a bit nervous at times and started in playing XI. Naorem was brought in the second half.

Igor Stimac said, “It was a great debut for Mehtab Singh but was sometimes too nervous. He will get used to the pressure and we had only one training session before the match.

“Naorem was a big surprise because I could see what he is capable of during the ISL but when players come from ISL to the national team it is a different kind of pressure. He was brilliant and everything he did tonight was good.”

Thoughts on crowd support

“There were many people tonight but most of them were sleeping. We need them to cheer up in our next match against Kyrgyzstan. I appreciate they came here in good numbers but when the team needs support you need to be there for them. When the crowds become sleepy players too become sleepy and it affects them.

“They were brilliant and a big thanks to them for coming up in huge numbers to support. Against Kyrgyzstan we expect them to be singing for 90 minutes which is what we expect,” he added.

Thoughts about only playing Chettri from the ISL final

Sunil Chettri was the only player to start for the National team after featuring in the ISL final. There were several other players selected for the national camp but Chettri arrived to the camp early and started his preparations. 

The 55-year-old iterated, “It is quite simple as he was the first player to make it to the camp after the ISL final. He did not waste a minute for celebrating but rather rushed to join the national team. That proves his hunger and commitment to the national team. I allowed the rest of the boys to celebrate as one group was received by the Chief Minister in Kolkata. Chettri is 37-year-old and doesn’t waste time celebrating. He is one of the fittest players in the squad and can play continuously for three days.”

Anirudh Thapa

Feelings in scoring the winner

Anirudh Thapa opened the account for India and it turned out to be a winner as well. He played consistently well throughout the game and was holding the midfield pretty well. 

Anirudh Thapa quipped, “Obviously, I am happy to score but as the coach said we came here to win and got the three points. It is a good start to the campaign and we are meeting after so many months. Everyone showed character and we are happy with the win.

“The crowd was amazing and I was there here at the Durand Cup as well. It was a fully packed stadium and were the 12th man today. A big thank you to the supporters.”

Difference between playing for Chennaiyin FC and the national team

“Today we were playing two number 10s and it was a bit easier. My work was simple to try to keep the ball and look to move forward. Playing for Chennaiyin is a bit different and here we are playing for our national team and playing for pride,” he added.

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