The Croatian also revealed that he feels the Blue Tigers performed better in their last two games than in the draw against Qatar.
Ahead of his side’s return fixture in the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers against Oman on Tuesday night, India head coach Igor Stimac interacted with the media in the pre-match press conference on Monday afternoon.
India will look to redeem their disappointing draw against Afghanistan when they travel to face Oman, who are still the only team to have defeated the Blue Tigers in the campaign. Having been unable to win any of their games in the first four matches, Igor Stimac obviously wants to go for the win on Tuesday night.
However, the Croatian maintained caution and enough respect for the Omani side and spoke about how important it is for the players to enjoy themselves.
“The purpose of tomorrow’s game, it’s quite clear that we’re in to win it. We’re here to win tomorrow. We have great respect for Oman, which is a very strong team. We faced their strength in Guwahati a few months back, where they showed their capacity and played great football.”
“I hope tomorrow can make lots of excitement, provide a good football game and it’s something we should all enjoy. The players need to enjoy tomorrow’s game and I really hope we can get a result out of this game.”
Igor Stimac brushed aside talk about whether India have regressed since their AFC Asian Cup campaign earlier this year. The 52-year-old maintained that his side are difficult to beat, but admitted that the short period they’re together makes it difficult to bring improvement.
On India’s Performance Since AFC Asian Cup
“We all knew before the games started that Qatar and Oman were favourites from the group. I joined the team at the end of May, with a clear task of restructuring the team, stabilizing the gameplay, improving certain points and making sure in the future, India participates continuously in the final stages of the Asian Cup. Three years ago, in the World Cup Qualifiers, India suffered five losses and had one win,” Igor Stimac pointed out.
“Today, we can say in four games, we have only one loss. We’ve improved a lot in our gameplan, in regards to ball possession, in regards to creating chances and all those aspects in the game. I consider ourselves a team who are very difficult to beat. But, we’re still not the team who can easily win any game. Football is a process and the national team doesn’t operate like a club. We can’t be expected to bring big changes quickly with the 5-6 days of training we get in months,” he further explained.
On Conceding Late Goals
India have conceded late goals throughout their World Cup Qualifiers campaign, be it in the first or second half of games. But, Igor Stimac refused to admit that there’s a mentality issue with his squad and went on to laud his players’ attitude.
“It’s not only a mentality issue. There are many other aspects. In football, you must be prepared to concede, but also to score goals in any minutes of the game,” he began.
“Football is played for 90, 95 minutes. So, conceding late on is part of the game. But, something I discovered about the Indian team and an improvement we made is that, in recent history, India never came back from deficits. The last two games were very difficult for us, as we were expected to win. The pressure was much higher on the players because of that. The late goals showed the strong character we’re building in our team,” he explained.
Igor Stimac Feels India Played Better In Last Two Games
Igor Stimac also stated how he felt his side played better in the last two games than against Qatar, but underscored that different expectations led to contrasting emotions.
“I think we played better against Bangladesh or Afghanistan than we did against Qatar. But, gaining a point in Doha was considered the biggest achievement in Indian football,” he said.
“I don’t think the quality of the football was that good against Qatar, as we did in the last two games. But, we didn’t get the three points in those games, that’s what is the difference,” Igor Stimac quipped.
On Playing Away From Home
The Croatian was asked about whether he feels India are more comfortable playing away than home, but reiterated how that doesn’t matter for him.
“For me, there is no difference. Every time, I’m preparing the best possible XI to win the game. In regard to different oppositions, it would be an attacking or defensive choice. But, what made me happy is that we’re bringing fans together in India to come to watch the team. In Guwahati, the place was sold out and in Kolkata, 65,000 supporters came to watch,” he recalled.
On Development Of Indian Football
There’s been a widespread opinion that India have regressed since the Qatar game, especially after drawing clashes they should’ve won. But, Igor Stimac insists the fans must remain patient and labelled it impossible to bring immediate success.
“India is a football giant. It‘s only a matter of time before it wakes up. Of course, it will take time, investment, education on coaching courses and everything else. But, we’re not rushing up,” Igor Stimac said.
“I know our supporters are creating overly high expectations at the moment after the Qatar game. But, I insist them to be quiet, be patient. As, in football, it’s not possible to turn things around overnight. We know what to do, we know how to execute the process through which we’re going to reach our ultimate potential,” Igor Stimac opined.
Igor Stimac also lauded defender Anas Edathodika, who returned home following a recent “family emergency” before the match against Afghanistan, for making himself available for the Oman game.
“We suffered some problems with players getting injured. Anas had to leave before the Afghanistan match as his mother passed away. But, he came back yesterday to be available for the game. I’m extremely happy to have such players, who are willing to do anything to serve their country,” he concluded.