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FIFA World Cup Qualifiers

"People may criticize him for this result, but he’s a good coach" - Ashley Westwood on Igor Stimac

Published at :March 27, 2024 at 12:00 AM
Modified at :March 27, 2024 at 1:04 AM
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Uttiyo Sarkar

Afghanistan will play Qatar and Kuwait next.

Afghanistan picked up a memorable win over India in the FIFA World Cup 2024 qualifiers second round clash at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium, Guwahati. The Lions of Khorasam came back from being 1-0 down (due to a Sunil Chhetri penalty) and scored twice through Rahmat Akhbari (70’) and Sharif Mukhammad (88’) to get a stunning win over the hosts.

Ashley Westwood proud of Afghanistan’s efforts in India win

Afghanistan head coach Ashley Westwood was particularly delighted with the win and the effort shown by his boys to do so. After the game, he remarked: “Emotion, delight and passion to be honest. We’ve worked really hard over the last 14 days, we’ve had some incredible travel. Players, staff from 16-17 different countries coming together it has been difficult. We’ve had 350 flights to organize, it’s a logistical nightmare and then we had to prepare to play against India – who are a very good side. They were ranked 102 a few months ago, 117 now and not sure where they’ll be after that.

“They have fit, passionate and patriotic players and a good little system. We knew we had to be at our best, do our work off the field diligently and prepare and eat better than them. We had to bring all these players together to provide a platform of content and team sprit. The lads have enjoyed it and embraced it. It was unlucky at 0-0 in the last game. We could’ve won that if we took our chances. I was not under pressure at 1-0 at half-time because I knew we scored. I never felt pressured or under trouble because I always believed in the boys and am glad we got the result,” he added.

Can this inspire result in remaining qualifiers?

When asked if this result can inspire them to get positive results against Kuwait or Qatar in the final qualifiers, the Englishman stated: “If I’m being completely honest, Kuwait are a big level in front of us. They’re top-50 in the world. They have incredible players and play in Qatar league and the other leagues. Qatar are fantastic. They are someone who hosted the World Cup not so long ago. They had a 10 year plan to go through the Aspire Academy and the way they prepared to not get embarrassed in the World Cup, which they didn’t.

“They prepared a vision in how a team can invest and go forward. Nothing is impossible in football. We have six points to play for, we need a few results to go for us. We are not thinking that far ahead, we’ll enjoy tonight and the next week or so and then start thinking about that. Now we’ll relax a little bit, get together with the boys and then go off to our homes and then how we can do something against Qatar and Kuwait,” he also stated.

Praise for dominating India and comments on Igor Stimac

Westwood has praised his side for dominating India in their own home ground and how positive their performance was. He explained: “The scoreline suggests that we were allowed to come back, but I always believe we were always dominant in the game. I think they scored against the run of play, and the crowd allowed them to start fast and a few of our players were nervous. But after the first minutes, we handled the game well and things went in our plan.

“We were really well organized, hard to play against and were there to cover the spaces and counter-act their players. If you trust in what you are doing the players trust you, if you can buy into a process, things like this can happen. We were always on the front foot, always dominant and going for the win. We had 12 shots as compared to seven of them and five shots on target is good for us against a good Indian side. I thought we only got what we deserved,” he added.

Ashley also voiced his respect for Igor Stimac, who will come under pressure after this loss. He remarked: “India had their own tactics and made their own substitutions and that’s on their coach. I would never analyze what they done and on what we did. I thought we had a pattern and a style defensively and offensively. Well done to us, I won’t disrespect because he has done a fantastic job in his five years. People may criticize him for this result, but he’s a good coach and has proven that in his five-year reign and improved the Indian side. There are good thing going on in this country and he can be proud of what he did in his five years. But hopefully we can build on this result now.”

Where does this win stand in Westwood’s coaching career?

Finally, the ex-Bengaluru FC manager explained how this result compares with his first I-League championship win and claimed: “It’s an incredible victory. Afghanistan never won in India before so that’s how historic it is. I classify it as similar to my first year at Bengaluru FC. We had a disjointed side and players playing for 20,000-30,000 rupees a month.

“We had a small budget, and it shows how with the right preparation you can create history. I’ve always trusted my ability and my staff. I have always shown how we can shape a team and win matches. But every win is big. Wins are few and far between, especially away from home. So this is a win we’ll enjoy and will try to move forward and keep up our momentum,” he finished with.

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