The India head coach also revealed that he wishes for the young players to get experience from the games.

The Indian football team is finally back in action after over a year and they will face Oman in an international friendly on Thursday. The Blue Tigers will have several fresh faces, picked by head coach Igor Stimac after the recently concluded edition of the Indian Super League (ISL).

The Croatian was joined by defender Sandesh Jhingan, as the duo interacted in the pre-match press conference ahead of the crucial game in Dubai. The pair answered questions on a number of topics, ranging from team selection and possible outcomes to the challenges in the future. 

Having to start from scratch

The tactician began by expressing his views on the prospect of starting the process again due to the pandemic and the season gone by.

“The job of the national team coach is to start from scratch, especially with such circumstances with the COVID-19 situation. It was terrible for us because we had so many plans, all stakeholders were putting so much effort to change the season duration to make the players settle better. Everything was destroyed due to this pandemic,” he said.

“I have to trust the form of the players, I cannot rely on the past and that’s what I explained to all of the players who’re candidates for the national team,” he added,

New figures in the squad

Igor Stimac has called up several youngsters who has not made their national team debut till now. Speaking in terms of whether the inexperience of such players is a cause for worry, he quipped, “We need to be very careful with them, we need to provide them minutes on the pitch. Systematically, we need to take good care of them, they are our future, there is no doubt about that.

“I just hope most of them will use this chance to settle better in the future, it boosts their confidence for the future ISL seasons and they will become (regular) starters for the national team in the future,” he expressed, while referring to the new youngsters. 

How new-look India can lineup against Oman & UAE

The Indian forwards and what’s best for them

The Indian boss sounded blunt as he expressed his desire for the domestic strikers to be part of the starting lineups in the ISL teams.

“The best future for them (Indian forwards) would be if we could have 11 strikers of Indian origin playing in the ISL in the first lineups. This year we didn’t have a single one, only Sunil Chhetri was and we have seen Ishan Pandita who came on and scored a few goals.”

“We are still struggling here, but last season of the ISL has shown us we need to have more trust in Indian players. The best example was Hyderabad FC, which played for most of the season with only two to three foreign players. I am asking all the time to have the patience and with hard work, results will come,” he opined.

Impressive youngsters 

Igor Stimac was full of praise of the new figures in the midfield and the quality that they will bring to the squad.

“I think most of the players we have chosen were playing for the clubs which were playing creative football. They were not afraid of playing football. That’s why these players are here as they will easily adapt to the playing style we are looking for,” the 53-year-old stated.

The long term plan

It has been apparent that Igor Stimac is trying to implement a cultural change in how the team has played over the years. He explained his vision by saying, “We are trying to work here on a long term plan. We cannot expect great things to happen overnight.”

“We have a great bunch of young players with some experienced players in the team. I am very confident that in a few years time, with such great talented young players, we can expect much better results than in the past.”

“I expect our players to get experience, no more than that,” he further added.

Selection based on form

The Croatian also reiterated that the competition for starting positions is going to continue and selection will be done solely on form.

“I cannot rely on history and performances from the past. We have the team that will come out tomorrow, one position is still in discussion with my staff. Today afternoon we will decide the first XI for tomorrow’s game,” he revealed.

Sandesh Jhingan on confident youngsters

Despite being only 27-years-old, Sandesh Jhingan is one of the most experienced players in the squad. Quizzed regarding how it has been like to work with the new faces, he revealed, “They have what it takes to be here. They are so mentally strong and they are so ready, we really didn’t have a lot of work as they’re all very mature.

“I’m sure they will do well when they get a chance to represent the country,” he added. The centre-back also revealed that it was easy to play the whole of ISL in one state. “It was very convenient for the players since it eliminated travelling fatigue,” he concluded.

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