The Croatian also praised Narender Gahlot’s efforts but stressed that any goal scored is the result of a team game.

The Indian national team finally turned the tide on their side with a hard-fought 1-1 draw against Syria in their last Intercontinental Cup match on Tuesday.

The Assyrians needed a win to progress to the final, but a 51st minute goal from young defender Narender Gahlot saw India take the lead in the second half. However, a lapse in concentration from substitute Jerry Lalrinzuala saw Firas Al-Khatib restore parity from the spot.

Punjab-born youngster, Narender, who scored his first goal for the country also won the Hero of the Match and accompanied Igor Stimac at the post-match media interaction. Speaking about young Gahlot’s performance on the night Stimac said, “Each goal from whoever scores comes as a team effort. The first game was not good and we were not happy about that. But, I know how much he can do. I know how good he is and has the quality to go out and score goals.”

“Show the Indian people that we have fantastic young players. Today, we can be proud and I congratulate the players,” Stimac added.

The Croatian has time and again spoken about the importance of tournaments like this ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers and how it becomes crucial to educate players on areas of deficiency. Moreover, he reiterated that he wanted this Intercontinental Cup to be a platform which will provide chances to each and every player in his ranks and to assess their performances from thereon.

“I was very clear saying that I will take this tournament to find out everything about each of them. We know our way and how to work and get where we want to be. I know it is not easy losing games, but changing the way India was playing before required lots of hard work and sacrifice and the result will suffer,” Stimac quipped.

“That’s the only way and now we have Amarjit (Kiyam), Narender and others. If I as a coach don’t take risk and responsibility to give them a chance to play then no one will,” he further added.

With the World Cup Qualifiers’ draw set to take place on Wednesday. Stimac was quizzed about the teams India must be wary of. “We should be scared of everyone and not only teams from POT 1, but even teams from POT 5 as well. This tournament shows you that football is a strange game. Everyone can beat everyone on a given day. We will respect everyone as we are just at the beginning of our journey and I hope this will be a long journey”.

Speaking about his combinations and the pool of players which he has created for the upcoming World Cup Qualifiers the Indian boss spoke about how a bunch of players who will be important for the Blue Tigers were missing from this tournament.

“We have here the best players from India, but we do have players like Jeje (Lalpekhlua), Holicharan (Narzary) who are coming from injury and Raynier Fernandes who has shown in Thailand that he will be crucial for us. Then with Anas (Edathodika) coming back and Sandesh (Jhingan) and Pronay (Halder) injured, we can say we have a pool of 35 players.”

“Now, the second phase of the work is the pre-season for the players with their clubs. My work will be to reach out to the club manager of the respective clubs and issue operations with them. I will give my opinion, but won’t get in between their plans. But, I will follow their games for the clubs and then prepare for the qualifiers accordingly,” Stimac added.

Stimac then reiterated the challenges in Indian football as he said, “I knew there were a lot of problems as I spoke to a lot of people about Indian football. Each problem has a solution, but if we look at it with negatively then nothing will be solved. But, I want to give my opinion and find solutions of how we can be better and that’s why I am here, not only to help the national team, but to work with the AIFF on several other aspects in football.”

Narender concluded the press interaction by thanking the support staff for working with him during his injury and also thanked Stimac for trusting and believing in him.