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FIFA World Cup Qualifiers

"We need to discuss where our futures stand," Igor Stimac coy after India's World Cup Qualifiers elimination

Published at :June 12, 2024 at 1:49 AM
Modified at :June 12, 2024 at 1:49 AM
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(Courtesy : AIFF media)

Uttiyo Sarkar


Igor Stimac also praised the mentality of the Indian players.

India endured a gut-wrenching 2-1 loss to Qatar in their final 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers second-round clash on Tuesday (11 June).

Despite taking the lead through Lallianzuala Chhangte, a highly debatable goal from Youssef Aymen and Ahmed Al-Rawi sunk the Blue Tigers in the cruelest of fashion.

In his post-match press conference, Igor Stimac went on length and breadth about controversial goals that impacted India’s chances, his future and much more.

Reaction to controversial goal

Head coach Igor Stimac was devastated by the manner of the defeat. He criticized the way Qatar scored their equalizer and directed a message to FIFA: “Hard feelings at the end of the game. I would say that there is nothing I should complain about my boys’ display today. They were fantastic. All Indian fans can be proud of the team today.

“We controlled the major parts of the game, with a high press that put the Qatari into positions to give away balls easily. We should’ve been 3-1 up in the first half and have killed the game. But something is missing in Indian football and that is clinical reactions inside the box, which is coming out as a result of not having the Indian players playing these positions in the ISL.

“Qatar was lucky tonight, especially because they came from 1-0 down with an irregular goal. I have just seen the replay and can confirm that the whole ball was over the line and the goal was still given. It’s something that shouldn’t be happening in modern football as that goal changed everything in this game.

“I feel sad because of that because I think as an organization, FIFA has enough power and resources to at least in the crucial games and the World Cup qualifiers use VAR and that should be implemented as soon as possible.

“It’s kind of injustice to my boys tonight because we were very close to winning the game and qualifying for the third round, but it didn’t happen.

“Congratulations to the Qatari team and I can say both countries can be proud of their future because both teams and all players today showed enormous quality and played open football. It was obvious both teams enjoyed and congratulations to all players involved tonight,” Igor Stimac added.

Igor Stimac on his future and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu’s chat

When asked about his future as the Indian football team head coach, Stimac was non-committal but optimistic about India’s footballing future, Igor Stimac said, “That’s something we need to discuss internally in the next few weeks where our futures stand. There is nothing I can tell you now. What I can tell you is that it was obvious tonight that India has a good future in football. Many people will say that Qatar played with a reserve team, but our team is not that older than the Qatari team today.”

Stimac also clarified a conversation with captain Gurpreet Singh Sandhu after full-time regarding the controversial goal

Indian head coach said, “That was about the first goal that Qatar scored, he confirmed that the ball was over the line and it hit his leg and went over the line.

“After that, it was pulled back by one of the Qatari players and they scored after that. Never mind the words, but I went into the dressing room to see the replay on the screen. I watched it several times, there is no doubt that the ball went out.”

The impact of the equalizer

Stimac emphasized how the equalizer altered the game’s dynamics and praised his team’s performance despite the result. Stimac stated: “They equalized in such circumstances, what can you say? In a game that was controlled, you could see that the chances India had were better than Qatar’s chances.

“India was a better team for the majority of the game, enjoying the game and having a vision of what needed to be done. Whatever we planned to do was done perfectly by the boys, obviously, in some situations, you can’t have perfect executions. At times, we complicated our life in the middle, making one or two more touches than necessary and losing the ball. But we defended well, so I’m very proud of the boys.”

Igor Stimac not blaming FIFA for the loss

Stimac clarified that his comments were not a blame on FIFA but a call for improvements in the qualifiers.

He explained: “Don’t get me wrong. I’m not blaming FIFA. Why should I blame FIFA? I’m just saying that these things shouldn’t happen in the future. FIFA is my family and I’ll never blame my family.

“I’m mentioning that things need to change because we have enough resources to improve things and make sure we protect fair play and we don’t hurt certain teams. It could’ve been Qatar today and I’d say the same.

“I’m not looking for an excuse, but when you have 25 boys working very hard and living the dream to achieve something and you get that dream killed because you didn’t make sure to stop such things from happening, that is not something the coaches or players should work on.

“We have enough officials and people who are taking care of football families who are having many things happening in the year need to sort out these things and make sure that the qualifiers around the world are played under conditions which are played in the big tournaments.”

Tease over Qatar move

Interestingly, Igor Stimac also teased a potential move to Qatar for his next management job and claimed: “I enjoyed my stay here. It was not a long one but a short one. Not coming at the beginning of the season and not having the chance to choose the team or players. I enjoyed each moment and each day working here in Qatar.

“The facilities you provide to coaches here, the way the players are taken care of and providing the best in the world facilities is amazing. I know that most coaches would love to experience a certain stage of Qatar. I would lie to you if I told you that I wouldn’t be interested in working in Qatar if that’s going to happen, only god knows.”

Igor Stimac’s advice on how SAFF football nations can improve

Finally, Igor Stimac gave a lengthy detail of what teams from South Asia, including India, need to improve after not a single SAFF (South Asian Football Federation) team qualified for the round third. Igor Stimac explained: “In simple words, the structure needs to be improved.

“The competitions need to be improved to make sure that the league lasts for 10 months, and that coaches are given enough time to work with the local players, to improve their qualities. The federations need to protect with the friendlies policy and foreign players policy.

“In India, we are not allowed to use Indian Origin Players playing in European teams. If we were allowed to use them, then India would qualify for the World Cup regularly. But we are one of few countries in the world not have the chance to use players of Indian origins playing in European clubs and that is making it difficult for us. That is another reason for me to be more proud because in India we don’t have 1,000 clubs.

“We have 1.5 billion people, but we have a league with only 13 clubs with no relegation so competitiveness is missing there. In half the season, you have 5, or 6 clubs who don’t fight for anything anymore. For the players to come to a certain level of competitiveness, they need to play under pressure during the season and need to feel the intensity of games in each game without relaxation so that they can come to the international level and provide the same,” Igor Stimac finished with.

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