The 51-year-old led Croatia to fourth position in FIFA Rankings.
The All Indian Football Federation Technical Committee along with newly-appointed technical director Doru Isac chose former Vatreni World Cupper and manager Igor Stimac, as Stephen Constantine’s successor.
Although the decision has not been made official yet, but according to multiple sources, and media reports, Stimac has been appointed.
The former Derby County defender landed the job ahead of former Bengaluru head coach Albert Roca while Hakan Ericson and Lee Min-sung made up the final four-man shortlist. It has been suggested that Stimac’s demands met well within AIFF’s boundaries as he came down to Delhi to interview for the job. It is rumoured that his presentation on Indian football was the most impressive among the rest and hence he was the preferred choice. He reportedly arrived for the interview with a list of 36 players, who he wanted to select in his squad.
Stimac was always an edge ahead when the four applicants were shortlisted, especially due to his illustrious playing career and in coaching also he has experience on an international level. Albert Roca also can boast of being Frank Rijkaard’s assistant in Barcelona and Saudi Arabia. But he has only led EL Salvador for a short tenure as head coach.
Whereas, Stimac has an all-around experience of playing in top clubs of Croatia, Spain and England. He started his career at Hajduk Split and served them pretty well for a long time with a short stint in Spain for Cadiz. His big breakthrough was when he joined Derby County and scored in his debut against Tranmere, although the Rams lost the game it was a successful season for the English side. He then joined West Ham United and there also he had a successful career playing alongside compatriot Davor Suker.
Stimac was a national team regular for Croatia in the 1998 World Cup. He also featured for Yugoslavia U-20 side during his younger days. He was a very able defender and made his name everywhere he went as a player. However, the same cannot be said for his coaching career.
Stimac was the successor of Slaven Bilic as the head coach of Croatia in 2012 and within one year he was removed from his position. He failed to grind out results and lost to sides like Scotland, Switzerland etc in the World Cup qualifiers. However, the Croats somehow qualified for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil but till that time Stimac was already sacked. Also, public opinion was against him.
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The 51-year old tactician was a defender by trait and it reflects in his style and philosophy. The concentration remains mainly in defensive stability and going up the field only on counter attacks. Something which the Indian football fans did not want. However, he puts more focus on set pieces and uses them as a weapon to score, a tactic which he used in Croatia.
He also managed to take Croatia to fourth-position in FIFA rankings, during his time at the helm. With everything said, he won’t get players of that calibre in India and the Asian Cup was a reminder where Indian football stands currently. Despite playing impressive football against Thailand, UAE and Bahrain, the Indians clearly lack in the physical side of things. Hence the Blue Tigers will hope to play to their strength of using the agility of their wide players. hence India needs someone to be tactically astute with counter-attacking football something that goes well with his expertise. His stints in Qatar and Iran will also help him adapt quickly.
The Blue Tigers needs someone who can stay with them for a longer period of time even when the results are not going in our favour. But Stimac has been shifting boats recently and has failed to stay at a club for a long period of time, be it Qatar’s Al Shahania or Iranian club Sepahan.
But the main positive here remains that the former Derby County defender turned coach has managed the majority of the Croatian side that went on to the finals of the 2018 World Cup in Russia. He also handed international debuts to players like Alen Halilovic, Mateo Kovacic and Ante Rebic. So his experience of handling big players will come in handy, something which kept him ahead of the others in the race to the job.
His first real test will at the King’s Cup in Thailand where the Blue Tigers face Curacao. With Indian football looking to take the next big step in the sport, the country and the fans are hopeful that Igor Stimac can be the man to steer us in the journey ahead.