Despite Oman loss, Stimac believes 'new India' will come good
Conceding two goals in the final eight minutes to lose to Oman in the first match of their FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 joint qualifiers was far from ideal for the Indian national football team, but head coach Igor Stimac is confident that the team will persevere and do some great things in the future.
Despite the eventual 1-2 scoreline, the Indian team played some of the best football in recent memory and led the match for 82 minutes courtesy a 24th-minute Sunil Chhetri strike. All the good work, however, came undone in the final stages as two quickfire goals from Oman's Al-Mandhar Al Alawi meant India came away from the tie empty-handed.
Stimac, who turns 52 on Friday, however, refused to dwell on the negatives and pointed out, "The players are quick-learners and that’s what makes me believe that we can do great things. We need to understand that we need to progress step-by-step. This is the new face of India and we have a lot of positive things to talk about, so let's keep talking about them. Everyone could see a new Indian team on the pitch - a team that was different from before, and one that has a bright future. We have many more options now in terms of players to choose from and we need to keep working on ourselves and move forward."
India dominated the first half, creating multiple scoring chances and defended with resolve for the majority of the second half before the Al-Mandhar blitzkrieg took the match away from the Blue Tigers. Dropping a reminder of how India could have 'killed off' the game in the first 45 minutes itself, Stimac opined, "We could have scored many goals in the first half and killed the game then, and there. My players are fitter than the Oman players, but they are more experienced. A time will come when we are not going to lose games like this and put the game to bed early. But for that, we need to continue working hard, and be patient."
"The boys made me proud and I'm sure all Indian fans (were proud of them) as well. The way they played and fought for their country, and ran and chased down the opposition players was something we need to be proud of," he added.
Stating that the progression is a gradual process, the Croatian said, "We have been working on many things, such as ball possession, and handling the ball well in tight areas. One can see that we are very stable now in the midfield, where there is a lot of pressure. You can see Rowllin Borges and Anirudh Thapa play differently from before. They are fighting and winning the second balls, and their composure in passing in all directions is brilliant."
India's next test will be against reigning AFC Asian Cup champions and the 2022 FIFA World Cup hosts Qatar on September 10. The Blue Tigers will reportedly fly to Delhi on September 6 before boarding a flight for Doha on the morning of September 7.
You can check out the India vs Oman match report here.