The Blue Tigers were left disappointed following a draw at home against the Bengal Tigers.

India missed an opportunity to go into third place in Group E of the FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifiers, after being held to a 1-1 draw by Bangladesh. After Saad Uddin had scored in the 42nd minute, the Blue Tigers avoided humiliation when Adil Khan’s 88th-minute strike gave them a point.

Igor Stimac wasn’t going to blame his players for the setback and when expressing his thoughts during India Vs Bangladesh Post Match conference, he said, “I think the game was an exciting one. It was one which everyone could enjoy the beauty of. But, we couldn’t get a result in the end.”

“We pushed right until the end. We created enough chances to win the game, but our scoring isn’t good enough. Their goalkeeper (who was, in my opinion, the Man of the Match) was a reason and our inability to finish chances was a reason we couldn’t win today,” he added.

The 52-year-old went on to admit that his side conceded a ‘very silly goal,’ saying one cannot expect a win after conceding goals like that.

“You could see that India is playing different football. We’re trying to play more technically, but there’s still much work to do. We must stay confident and optimistic for the games coming ahead,” stated Stimac.

The boss had it coming

The Croatian also reiterated his displeasure at the first-half performance, but touted his team to keep working to get the results. He explained, “I’m not happy with the first 45 minutes. I told our players before the game that when you play against a team like Bangladesh, who will defend with at least nine players, who are compact, our passing must be quicker from the back.”

“For some reason, our defenders weren’t doing that when it comes to passing quickly from the back. They kept the ball for a long time and that isn’t acceptable.”

“We must work on many more things to improve going forward. But, looking how our players gave our hearts onto the pitch, all I can do is hug them and be supportive to them. They just need to keep working hard and the wins will come,” he further added.

Impressed by the fans’ support

Regardless of the result, Stimac hailed the fans for creating an amazing atmosphere and opined, “All the appreciation must be given to the crowd. This was an amazing day for Indian football.”

“Many of these players won’t forget this atmosphere, this ambience and this support. I enjoyed today’s game and will remember it as one of the biggest games in my professional coaching career,” he quoted.

Standing by with the underperforming players

India’s youngsters, particularly Manvir Singh, Anirudh Thapa and Sahal Abdul Samad had an average game. But, Stimac was unwilling to blame them and spoke about what they could learn from the outing.

“Our learning process consists of analyzing the games after we play them. Each one of them needs to watch the game and must analyze their opinion come the next game. They will find out after watching that the decision-making was poor. The legs weren’t sharp enough and we still don’t have the experience needed.”

“You could see the talent they have and their potential. Let’s be supportive to them. They are brilliant boys. I’m trying to teach them not to have a fear of making mistakes, but not to repeat their mistakes,” he explained.

I think what we took away from the qualifiers is that the boys need some more experience. Today we showed a third part of our quality by playing different football.”

Optimistic for the remaining games in this group

Stimac was honest when criticizing the gravity of the goal conceded, but retained the faith in the players after the game. He said, “When you play games like these, the opponents will have chances. Bangladesh did have a couple of chances. The goal we conceded is not acceptable if you’re looking to win the game. But, on another note, we played good football and deserved to win the match. We showed plenty of courage and energy which I demand from the players. They gave me that and I’m happy for that.”

Oman are the closest podium place in Group E and are four points ahead of the Blue Tigers having played a game less. This result is a massive setback to potential qualification, but Stimac refused to write the team off. He signed off by saying, “Many points are on the table to be taken. That was one of the points I made in the dressing room to make our players understand we have games ahead. I gave them the options of whether to take this as a man or quit fighting it. There are many points to be taken ahead and we’ll fight to get those. It’s obvious that there will be some more upsets in this group.”