The Blue Tigers are yet to register their first win in this qualifying campaign.

India succumbed to a narrow 0-1 defeat against Oman at the Sultan Qaboos Stadium on 20th November, after Muhsen Al-Ghassani scored the solitary goal in the 33rd minute. India head coach Igor Stimac spoke to the media following the match.

With this defeat, the Blue Tigers are still winless in their group, after five FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifiers. Igor Stimac was understandably not happy with the result. He said, “I am disappointed with the result, we lost the game, but we congratulate Oman and wish them good luck for the upcoming Gulf Cup.”

“The game was interesting. Oman had more chances and they deserved to win. We were the better side in the second half. We were pushing really hard, but we couldn’t score the goal and that has been our main problem in these five games.”

“All our goals have come from set-pieces and it is obvious that we are missing players who can score goals. We are moving well and fighting hard, but we don’t have accuracy in the box.”

The Croatian also did not hesitate to point out the positives from the game. He said, “We showed that we can play against teams like Oman, they are a quality side. My players made me proud even today, but they could have done better in the first half. This is the learning process and we will try to get better results in future.”

The Blue Tigers had numerous injuries

Injuries have been the Achilles Heel for the Indian national team and against Oman the story wasn’t any different, with Stimac losing crucial players like Pronay Halder and Adil Khan in the first half itself.

He said, “When you need to make two changes in the first half due to injuries, that upsets the whole team and all the work. But, we were facing the same problem even before. Even Oman were suffering from such problems. They were also down and injured. They don’t have many competitive games. They need more competitive games to play high-intensity games for 90 minutes.

“But, today, we faced a few different challenges. Our only player who can tackle well suffered a shoulder injury. We couldn’t pick up on the second balls.”

With the Blue Tigers facing Asian champions Qatar next, Stimac believes that he is going to stay true to his system and won’t change it based on the opponents.

“We are not changing our system for anyone. We are developing our game and we are improving inside our system. If we start changing our system because of the teams we are facing, we are not going to improve. It’s as simple as that. So, we stick with our system. We are improving in positions.”

“We are trying to develop our players’ strength and condition. I want my India to play without fear against anyone because that’s the beauty of football. Never mind who is on the opposite side, you have a chance to win the game. But, if you are adapting your way of playing according to the opposite team, you must be weak, you show weakness. I don’t want my team to show weakness,” Igor Stimac added.

Impressed by Ashique Kuruniyan

There were questions raised when Ashique Kuruniyan started the game as a left-back, replacing Mandar Rao Dessai. However, Stimac feels that the Bengaluru FC man put in a better shift from the back.

“I decided to go with Ashique Kuruniyan in that position because of how he played against Afghanistan in the second half, while in that position. He is very quick and he can run past three players. He is very dangerous when he comes from behind.”

“He’s not a goalscorer. So, it’s the same for him, whether he plays as a left full-back or left winger. He served really well. I think he has the capacity to play in Europe. He is very young, very quick. He learns very quick and he is one of the players who will have a good future in Indian football,” Igor Stimac concluded.