The India tactician was joined by goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu as the duo spoke ahead of the clash against the UAE.

The Indian Football Team will be back in action on Monday, when they’ll face the United Arab Emirates in an international friendly. The Blue Tigers will play their second friendly match after a period of 16 months due to the obstacles presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Igor Stimac, India’s head coach spoke to the media in preparation for the highly-anticipated match against the hosts.

The first of the two friendlies against Oman ended in an entertaining 1-1 draw. The young Indian debutants, ten of them, impressed on the evening playing against much stronger opponents.

Igor Stimac indicated to changes in the lineup, the need to play stronger teams and more. The boss was joined by custodian Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, who also answered questions ahead of the game. 

Content with result against Oman

The tactician started the interaction by expressing his thoughts on the performance against Oman. He was quoted saying, “The boys recovered well. It was an exhausting game. Feeling sorry most of our people could not watch it live due to technical issues. As a coach, I was very happy with the attitude, performance…there were many debutants in this team. This was the first time they played together.

“We all need to be happy about the result at the end because we bounced back against a really strong and competitive side,” he further added.

Related- Preview: Can India continue upward curve against hosts against UAE?

A tougher challenge against UAE

The Croatian expects the next game to be tougher, but vital for experience. He explained, “I expect UAE to be more difficult opponents. They are more technical than Oman, they play quicker football and put lots of high pressure on the opponents. This will be another very difficult test for our youngsters, but this is why we are here, to get experience out of these matches. To see what to expect from any of these boys who are here for the first time with us.

“I would not say they were not courageous enough. As a team, as a unit we were far from our players, we didn’t control individually. They had lots of spaces to control the ball in holes, which created lots of problems for us in the first half.” Stimac added in the context of an average first-half performance against Oman.

Praise for players

The 53 year-old also showered praise on several players who shone brightly against Oman. In the context of Lalengmawia Ralte, he said, “In Apuia, we have a young quality player in our team now. Rest of the boys who went on in the second half helped him a lot to organize the game. I can tell you Apuia will start the next game.”

While referring to Bipin Singh, he said, “Bipin started on the right side because I wanted to see him put crosses for Manvir. When speaking to Bipin, he told me it’s all the same, playing left or right, it does not matter.   

“I can tell you now that Sandesh (Jhingan) is not involved in the next game because I need to see Mashoor (Shereef) and Adil (Khan) also. He (Chinglensana Singh) did really well, he was exceptional. I am very happy with his performance,” the head coach further opined.

Manvir Singh’s importance

Igor Stimac also talked about the goalscorer in the last game, Manvir Singh. He said, “We need to have 5-6 Manvir Singhs in India. He needs someone to push him further. I just hope that Ishan (Pandita) in the future, gets more opportunities with FC Goa. If not, he needs to find another club where he can prove himself with more minutes on the pitch.”

Gurpreet Singh Sandhu on mood in camp

Gurpreet Singh Sandhu also joined in and presented his views in regard to the mood in the camp ahead of the game against the UAE. He expressed, “I think it’s good. Finally, some boys have played international football and now they know what the level is like.

“We are very keen on playing tomorrow again, against a very good side in UAE. Its a great challenge to be playing a team like UAE who have been doing well. It will be a good test for us, everyone wants to give everything and show what they have.”

A change of roles

The Bengaluru FC player also talked about being one of the seniors in the squad, after coming into the national team as a youngster. He said, “When I joined the national team, I was probably the youngest player and now I am on the other side. The most important lesson I have learnt from my seniors is to set a good example. I am enjoying that responsibility as well.”

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