The Blue Tigers’ head coach also opined that the lack of an Indian goalscorer in the national leagues is affecting the national team.

With the new season of the I-League set to kick-off in less than ten days, a launch event was organized in the capital on Thursday, which was attended by most of the AIFF dignitaries, players representing their respective clubs and most importantly Indian football team head coach Igor Stimac.

Addressing the media, Igor Stimac spoke about his disappointment following India’s latest FIFA World Cup Qualifiers against Afghanistan and Oman. The Blue Tigers have failed to register a single win and are in fourth place in Group E.

“We came back home disappointed with the results, but it did not undermine the faith and our belief in what we do. We faced difficulties in regard to opponents, climate difficulties. Its not an excuse, but the injuries were most difficult. Losing most important players due to injury and not having Sandesh (Jhingan) and (Rowllin) Borges, losing Pronay (Halder) early in the game,” he recalled.

“But anyway, we need to be positive. The facts are out there. In the last World Cup Qualifiers, after five games we were on zero points and now we have three points and also, we have more games to come. We are on our way to achieving what we promised. That is, competing at the Asian Cup and doing better than the past. We are preparing the team for the future, so that we can go into the next World Cup Qalifiers with much better and higher expectations,” Igor Stimac added.

Thoughts On Draws Against Bangladesh & Afghanistan

The Croatian head coach was asked to choose between the draws against Bangladesh at home and Afghanistan in Dushanbe, to which he quipped, “I am a very realistic person and in regard to expectations, mine is not different than yours. If we stick together, we will see positive results. We have got what we have and we cannot go beyond that. It is a long process and will take time. You know the problems we had. We need to be patient and have a strong belief and faith in what we do.”

Igor Stimac had a tough time on the sidelines, when against Oman, three of his players had to leave the pitch due to injuries. Pronay Halder suffered a shoulder injury early in the game. While Adil Khan also limped off, piling up the defensive woes for Igor Stimac. Later, even Rahul Bheke was pulled off with a reported groin injury. All three forced changes against Oman did not allow the Croatian to use his substitutes to add more attacking impetus to the game.

Thoughts On ISL Sides Not Releasing Players Sooner

The 52-year-old had requested the FSDL and AIFF to mandate the Indian Super League clubs to release their players early for the camp in November. But, his request was not granted and given the results that followed, Igor Stimac was asked whether the decision played a role or not.

“I came here to help and up until now everyone have been very helpful. From the AIFF, Reliance people and FSDL, we are working on many aspects and it will give results in the future. In regards to the results, we are much better than the last qualifiers and we are going go to the Asian Cup. We will have enough time to prove ourselves and put up a better performance there,” he opined.

Thoughts On Lack Of Goalscorers

Speaking about India’s goalscoring woes, Igor Stimac focused on the lack of Indian goalscorers in the domestic leagues and pointed out how India are creating chances and fighting against any opposition they face.

“We don’t have a striker who is scoring regularly in the domestic leagues. We cannot score at the international level, if we don’t have a striker scoring regularly. I don’t work with them on a regular basis, I only get a few matches. But, the good thing about India is we are creating chances and playing fearless football. We are not holding back inside our box, but we are going to fight with whoever it is. This is why we are building a new and brave India. India with heart, courage, upgrading and getting better with time,” he opined.

Replacement For Sunil Chhetri?

“Why are we talking about replacing Sunil Chhetri?” Stimac went on, “He is there, alive and fit, doing his best. He is going nowhere.”

“That chance against against Afghanistan, he would score from that position 9 times out of 10. Unfortunately, this it didn’t happen this time.”

“Sunil Chhetri is very valuable for us. His body is like a 29 year-old,” he quoted, “As long as he is training like he is, behaving like he is, I can assure he is going to be with us.”

“I hope I will have a chance to find out more like Sunil Chhetri.”

Igor Stimac pointed to the statistics of the Indian side under him, in comparison to the team that played under Stephen Constantine in the Asian Cup. The Croatian did not shy away from letting people know of the development that has taken place.

“When you take the numbers from Asian Cup under (Stephen) Constantine, the average number of passes was around 240. Now, it is around 400. The passing accuracy percentage was around 67% and now it is 82%. We reduced long-range passes from 25% to 15%. Subsequently, we lost some of our most important players, who are crucial to the gameplay. You can look at the facts however you want, but you cannot change. We need to improve more with patience and this team to grow up in developing results,” he concluded.