The Croatian will face a tough test as the Blue Tigers’ head coach in the upcoming qualifiers.

After a topsy-turvy performance by the Indian football team at the AFC Asian Cup 2019, AIFF appointed Igor Stimac in charge of the national team. The Croatian’s presentation had impressed the selectors, as he knew almost all players on the national roster and had a roadmap ahead.

After two years, the Indian team stands at crossroads, looking for the right path. During Stimac’s tenure, India have won just one game in 12 outings while drawing five times. The stalemates against Oman and Qatar deserve special mention as they were commendable displays, but the draws against Bangladesh and Afghanistan invite criticism as well, since these games should have been easy victories.

Igor Stimac was given the hot seat to take India’s flashes of brilliance at the AFC Asian Cup 2019 to the next level and convert it into consistent performances. Has that happened?

A quick recap

What Igor Stimac said in 2019

In the FIFA World Cup and AFC Asian Cup qualifiers, Indian football team have played five matches so far in a group that also include Qatar, Oman, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. The Blue Tigers have taken three points so far, by drawing against Qatar, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. While the team no longer have good chances to make it to the World Cup, India will need to play out of its skin to muster enough points to move to the next round of Asian qualification.

In its last friendly, India were battered 6-0 against UAE in Dubai, raising questions about their frail defence which used to be resolute during the Constantine era. Qatar, Bangladesh and Afghanistan now stand in the way of the team’s chances to move to the next round of qualification – but given their ominous form at scoring, it will take nothing less than a miracle to put India in the top-three.

Now the question stands – who takes the blame?

Igor Stimac stat
Igor Stimac’s time as Indian football team head coach in numbers

From journalists to football fans, everyone in unison questioned Constantine’s techniques and counter-attacking football while the manager continued to churn out results with his same set of players. Igor Stimac, on the opposite, has given debuts to nearly 20 Indian footballers while also playing a decent ball possession style, but has failed to produce results.

Igor has time and again said that he’s building a team for the future and should be given more time, but with the dip in results, will AIFF playing the waiting game?

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The important questions

While the attacking game has depleted, Indian footall team have seen the rise of Manvir Singh, Sahal Abdul Samad, Brandon Fernandes and others. Stimac needs to work on his backline, if India is to continue playing friendlies with physically superior sides such as Oman and UAE. India has conceded 25 goals under Stimac. Three or more goals were scored against the side on four different occasions. Should India reconsider Stimac’s position if we fail to reach the AFC Asian Cup at the least? This is a question that stands in front of the AIFF.

India is keeping the ball more under Stimac, but being outmuscled against sides such as UAE and not being able to perform to their full potential against sides such as Bangladesh and Afghanistan is a poor sight for the fans. In the games against Bangladesh and Afghanistan, it was India who were on the back foot. They earned points by means of a late equalizer – which doesn’t sound too well for the perennial SAFF champions.

The Blue Tigers are set to play the remaining qualifiers in June – and it will be a tough test for Igor Stimac. Will he find the right road for the national team, or will the team choose a different one?

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