Indian men's national team head coach Igor Stimac is looking forward to using the upcoming international friendlies in Bahrain to chalk out the best possible combination for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers third round, in June, later this year.

The majority of the Indian squad is currently in Pune, for the preparatory camp ahead of the upcoming assignment. The Blue Tigers will leave for Bahrain on March 21 and play against the hosts a couple of days later. Stimac’s men will be up against Belarus on March 26 to conclude the tour.

“We are playing Bahrain and Belarus, and they are better-ranked sides than us. But whatever the rankings are, you need to do it on the pitch. Bahrain will show us where we stand. We will give chances to some young players who have played well in the Hero ISL this season to see how much we can use them for the qualifiers in June,” said Igor Stimac, as reported by

“We look to perform well in the forthcoming two matches. We need to make sure that we zero down on the best combination for the qualifiers in June,” added the manager.

Also Read: Kerala Blasters FC vs Jamshedpur FC: Hero ISL experts predict the semi-final second leg

There have been quite a few fresh additions to the national setup after encouraging performances in the Hero ISL 2021-22. However, the quality of goalkeeping overall has been below average and has prompted the Croatian gaffer to conduct special sessions to address the issue.

“The goalkeepers have been inconsistent this season. I already spoke to Gurpreet and he is aware that the season has not gone well. But Gurpreet is one of the best goalkeepers in Asia, and I am confident of him, and all of them. We are already into the training process,” the coach stated.

India have been pitted alongside Cambodia, Hong Kong, and Afghanistan in Group D of the 2023 AFC Asian qualifiers third round. The all-important matches are set to be held in Kolkata, from June 8.