The head coach is optimistic ahead of the clash against the Bengal Tigers.

After a narrow defeat to Qatar on Thursday, the Indian football team look forward to the clash against Bangladesh on Monday. Ahead of the important FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifier, head coach Igor Stimac and Sandesh Jhingan addressed the media.

Loss against Qatar

Firstly, the Croatian spoke about the loss against the Asian champions and its impact on the team. “Of course, it was a difficult match against Qatar. Playing with a man less for most of the game was not easy. We suffered a lot with regards to the energy levels,” he began.

“In a way, it is a big thing for us – the team, our supporters, the Indian people, to win this game. That is how we are going to approach this game, without disrespecting our opponents. Our team has improved and is going to be a better side on pitch and deserve to win this game,” he added.

Thoughts on Bangladesh

Interestingly, the last time the two sides met, the Blue Tigers were favourites for a win. However, Bangladesh silenced a jam-packed Salt Lake Stadium by taking the lead, only to squander it in the dying moments of the game. Thus, both sides will be charged to get the much-needed three points this time. Speaking on the Bengal Tigers, Igor Stimac sounded optimistic of a good result, yet wary of their threat.

He described them as ‘a team with a great fighting spirit.’ He quoted, “In the football world, I would say they are very annoying team who disturb the opposition with so much defensive work, quality work – with blocks – quite similar to what we did against Qatar.

“In football at times, you need to do everything possible to irritate the rival team, to annoy them, to cut their passing. Bangladesh are fighting for every point in the group and whatever they do, they do it as a team,” he further added.

“The matches against Qatar and Bangladesh are so different – from one extreme to another. In the first game we played the best team in Asia who were so superior and have been training every day in comparison to us having just eight days of training prior to the start of the competition. In fact, without the help of the Qatar FA and Qatari government, we wouldn’t have even begun our training,” Stimac opined.

“Bangladesh were also in a similar situation to us as far as preparation is concerned. But they have the advantage of their players being much more competitively fit as their season ended in the second week of May in comparison to most of our players not having any competitive football since February.”

Last chance for Blue Tigers?

WATCH: Igor Stimac’s pre-match press conference ahead of Bangladesh vs India game

Further, Igor Stimac dismissed talk that the game against the eastern neighbours is the last chance for the Blue Tigers to qualify for AFC Asian Cup 2023. “We have one more game after Bangladesh. This is not our last chance or not even one before that,” he asserted.

“Our aim stays the same, since the start of this tournament. That is to qualify for the last stage of AFC (Asian Cup). We can do that even from fifth position.”

Level of expectations from players

The 53-year-old expressed his opinion on the level of expectations one should keep from the Qualifiers, especially considering the COVID pandemic. “I think no one should be a critic, not towards the team and not anyone here, with regards to the circumstances that are surrounding us. These are not normal circumstances.

“With so much going on around us, more important things than football. Without any preparations, you cannot expect the players to show what they can really do.”

He continued, “So, when you ask me about Bangladesh, of course we’re excited that we are favourites to win this game. We’re going to try to show certain composure. Different to games against Qatar and Oman, who are better sides than us. It is on our staff and players to see if we can better handle the game. In regards to ball possession, skills of movements, skills of passing and accuracy,” he concluded.

Sandesh Jhingan’s comments

Adding to the coach’s words, centre-back Sandesh Jhingan also expressed his views on the game. He reiterated the words of Igor Stimac, citing how tough the game against Qatar was and its impact on the team “Most of us have recovered now. We are now looking forward to Bangladesh, have the desire and are ready for it. The onus is on us. We’ll give our best.”

“In football you can get surprised and get bad results any day. The main job is the preparation – both physically and mentally,” he explained. “As players we need to stick to the game plan and show the right desire and commitment which the gaffer wants and expects from us,” he added.

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