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AFC Asian Cup

Report: India's performance in AFC Asian Cup disappointing but not unexpected, claims Igor Stimac

Published at :February 5, 2024 at 1:05 PM
Modified at :February 5, 2024 at 1:28 PM
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(Courtesy : AFC Media)

Keshava Verma


In a recent report submitted to the AIFF, Igor Stimac revealed some bitter and honest opinions on the Indian national team.

India’s long awaited AFC Asian Cup 2023 campaign, was by no means satisfying and illustrious. The Blue Tigers failed to pick a single point from the group stages, and also did not score any goal in the campaign, marking their probable worst-ever performance in the tournament.

In a recent report submitted to the All India Football Federation (AIFF), Indian national team head coach Igor Stimac mentioned that the national team’s performance in the AFC Asian Cup in Doha, where it suffered three losses, was “disappointing but not unexpected”. He feels the national team cannot be expected to shine in tournaments like the Asian Cup until the best clubs of the country stop losing to sides from Bangladesh and Maldives.

“I’m a truly realistic person …and for now we should be happy and satisfied when continuously participating at the AFC Asian Cup. The reason for saying that is very simple and logical, how to expect our NT (national team) to do well while our best ISL (Indian Super League) teams are losing heavily in AFC Champions League and suffering defeats in AFC Cup club competitions against teams from Bangladesh and Maldives?” said Stimac in his report. 

The quotes have been taken from an article published in Sportstar via PTI (Press Trust of India).

Stimac on the lack of quality

Another reason cited by the Croatian, was the absence of any player playing in a major footballing league in the world. Something that only India were victims of. 

“How we can expect more from our boys if we had never in our history qualified for the Asian Cup in U18/U20/U23? If we are so much behind others in under age groups than qualifying with senior NT is already a huge achievement,” he expressed. 

AIFF’s incompetence : A matter of concern

Stimac was also critical of the AIFF, for failing to provide the necessary tools required to strengthen the national team. 

“Apart from Australia, South Korea and Japan (most of their players are playing in the best European leagues), all other participating teams had an average time of 27 days for preparation for the AFC Asian Cup. We had only 13 days,” Stimac rued.

“We were the only team at the tournament without GPS equipment which made our job really difficult. Apart from that it affects the players when they see that basic training equipment is missing and we can’t measure training effectiveness or prevent certain injuries,” he added.

Injury Crisis

Also, the injury crisis added to their woes, as Igor Stimac couldn’t field his strongest XI. He reiterated that the team was weakened by the absence of Ashique Kuruniyan, Jeakson Singh and Anwar Ali. Another key player, Sahal Abdul Samad, was available only for the last game against Syria.

“(They) were giving our team stability in all aspects of the game (physical, technical, tactical and mental). Not having them fully fit for such important tournament was irreplaceable loss.

“Most of Bengaluru and Mohun Bagan players joined us after having terrible spell with their respective clubs prior to the AFC Asian Cup. Thinking of replacing so many of them for the Asian Cup with other ISL players was never an option.”

Stimac on the team’s performance

Speaking on the performance that his team put up during the tournament, Igor Stimac said, “Our best game was against Australia, which wasn’t (a) surprise because we prepared twice as long for that game as for the other two. The match against Uzbekistan was a big disappointment personally because I was expecting that good performance against Australia would boost our confidence and have more concrete effect on boys.”

“Instead of raising up in our game, we became vulnerable and let in cheap goals in a similar way to Qatar game. We knew that Uzbekistan is technically excellent team that mercilessly punishes mistakes,” he added. 

“We did face the problem few days prior to this game with Sandesh Jinghan suffering from fever and not feeling (well) which obviously had impact on his game.” He said after the team conceded three first-half goals, he had to “choose the right words during the break in the locker room to avoid a real result disaster.”

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