As India U23 gear up to take on Oman in their opening match of the qualifiers for the AFC U23 Asian Cup, Head Coach Igor Stimac stated that the next three matches will provide a chance to the Indian boys to gauge “where they stand against their generation” of other Asian countries.

 “We are grateful to be here,” Stimac stated at the official press conference. “Given the current situation it’s not easy to play International football these days. The next three matches provide a chance to the youngsters to gain some experience and gauge where they stand against their generation of stronger sides like Oman, UAE, and Kyrgyz Republic.”

The Indian team landed in Dubai on October 20, and had their first training session the next day onwards.

“We don’t have huge expectations. We hope everyone will give their best on the pitch. That’s what I am asking from the players. Right at this moment, it’s difficult to say how we will fare against stronger sides who are prepared more than us for this leg. But I also hope we can surprise some. We will look for our chances.”

India have been clubbed in Group E along with hosts UAE, Oman and Kyrgyz Republic.

Referring to a question about rating Oman as an opponent, Stimac expressed: “We have analysed the games which Oman played in the last tournament they played. We tried to explain to our players about their strength, and how we should play but we need to see how we can execute it on the field.”

“Every match brings forward different situations at certain stages, and then it’s all about how the players can adapt and proceed,” the coach added.

The U23 boys headed to Dubai on the back of the Senior team winning the SAFF Championship in Maldives last week.

“We participated in the SAFF Championship and we have some players in the current squad who were part of the triumph — 5 of them. I hope their experience of playing with the Senior National team will add to the confidence of the team, and make others comfortable and encourage everyone to play well in this leg of the qualifiers.”

“We were happy with the qualifying rounds of the Asian Cup wherein we played the Asian Champions (Qatar) twice on their own ground. We just conceded one goal which shows that India is becoming strong defensively. We were extremely organised, and disciplined. It’s great to think about a better future for Indian Football. We have also qualified for the third round in the Asian Cup qualifiers, and expect to qualify for the AFC Asian Cup China 2023.”

The kick-off tomorrow (October 24) against Oman U23 is at IST 10 pm, and the match will be streamed live on Indian Football’s social media handles.

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