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Five reasons why Igor Stimac was sacked as Indian football team head coach

Published at :June 19, 2024 at 3:36 PM
Modified at :June 19, 2024 at 3:36 PM
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Atawaris Warsi

Igor Stimac failed to keep up with the expectations from AIFF and Indian football fans.

A few days ago, a long-anticipated bombshell was dropped by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) as Igor Stimac, the Indian football team’s head coach, was sacked following a string of poor performances. This decision came following a crucial meeting attended by technical committee head IM Vijayan and member Climax Lawrence, both of whom are esteemed former internationals.

The immediate removal of the 56-year-old Croatian coach was prompted by India’s failure to advance to the third round of the 2026 World Cup Qualifiers, a milestone that would have secured automatic qualification for the 2027 AFC Asian Cup as well. Despite his efforts over the past few years, Igor Stimac’s tenure ended without achieving this crucial target. 

Now, as the Indian football team continues its quest for the 2027 Asian Cup, we at Khel Now take a glance at the five reasons behind Stimac’s dismissal:

5. An array of poor performances

Igor Stimac, the Croatian coach, was appointed in 2019 to elevate India to higher, more respectable positions in international football. Initially, Stimac seemed to fulfill his promise, leading India to a treble in 2023 by winning the Tri-Nations, Intercontinental and SAFF Championships. However, this success was short-lived, as both performances and rankings plummeted in 2024.

India’s dismal showing at the AFC Asian Cup 2023 was a significant setback, with the team losing all three group matches against Australia, Uzbekistan, and Syria, failing to score any goals while conceding six. The situation worsened during the 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, when India failed to advance to the third round, suffering a home defeat to Afghanistan and managing only a draw away. 

4. Goalscoring proved to be an arduous task

Another major concern was the goalscoring ability of the Indian team under Igor Stimac. Regardless of the formation he employed, issues persisted in attack. Despite Sunil Chhetri’s continued presence and leadership on the field, even the prolific Indian striker struggled to penetrate the opposition’s 18-yard box effectively.

From the start of the World Cup Qualifiers, India managed to score only three goals in nine matches, while conceding a total of 13. This dismal performance highlighted the team’s inability to find the back of the net and exposed defensive vulnerabilities, contributing to the decision to part ways with Stimac.

3. Inconsistent Performances

Throughout Igor Stimac’s tenure, the Indian football team exhibited flashes of brilliance in certain matches, while appearing disjointed and lost in others. A significant factor contributing to this inconsistency was the midfield’s inability to effectively connect the team’s defensive and attacking efforts. The midfield struggled to bridge the gap between defence and attack, leading to erratic performances that left fans dismayed.

For instance, during the AFC Asian Cup 2023 campaign, India showcased a resilient defensive display in their opener against Australia. However, in subsequent matches, such as against Uzbekistan, the defence faltered significantly, exposing vulnerabilities that were exploited by opponents. A similar pattern emerged during the World Cup Qualifiers, notably in the match against Afghanistan, where defensive lapses contributed to a disappointing result.

2. Igor Stimac’s favourites

Another aspect of Igor Stimac’s tenure that unsettled fans was his apparent favouritism towards certain players, who often retained their spots in the team, despite inconsistent or below-par performances in previous matches. This perceived bias raised concerns among supporters, who felt that deserving alternatives were overlooked in favour of these favorites.

While Stimac eventually introduced new faces into the squad, the changes came late in his tenure, which was a point of frustration for many observers. The delay in integrating fresh talent into the team was seen as a missed opportunity to inject new energy and address persistent issues within the squad.

1. A series of excuses

After every loss, the former Indian football team head coach often seemed to have a ready excuse. Whether it was advocating for the inclusion of diaspora players in the squad, arguing for longer training camps or shifting blame onto the federation, Igor Stimac’s responses often came across as repetitive and unconvincing.

However, the breaking point came when, despite numerous promises, Stimac refused to consider stepping down and instead placed the entire burden of responsibility on the federation. This unwillingness to take accountability for the team’s shortcomings further eroded confidence in his leadership.

Ultimately, these repeated excuses and the coach’s failure to deliver on promises became emblematic of his tenure. The AIFF’s decision to part ways with Stimac reflected a desire for a fresh approach and greater accountability within the national team setup.

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