Happy for the players and people who were supporting us over the years: India head coach Igor Stimac

Indian men’s football team head coach Igor Stimac was pleased with his team's performance as India finished their AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers campaign with a 4-0 victory over Hong Kong at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata on Tuesday.

Anwar Ali, Sunil Chhetri, Manvir Singh, and Ishan Pandita scored in a comfortable win over Hong Kong who were considered the strongest opponents for Igor Stimac's side before heading into this match. The Blue Tigers demonstrated their dominance by smashing their opponents. With this win, India finished first in the group with nine points from three wins and also secured their second consecutive Asian Cup main-round entry for the first time in the tournament's history.

Match Report: AFC Asian Cup qualifiers: Sunil Chhetri scores again as India thump Hong Kong to win Group D

The 54-year-old addressed the media in the official post-match press conference.

Here are the excerpts from the coach’s press conference:

Congratulations on three games three wins and qualification for AFC Asian Cup. How do you feel?

Obviously, I feel good and happy, not just for myself. I’m happy for the players and the people who were supporting years in the last three years, which haven’t been easy. I’m happy for the supporters who came here and in the past few games to support us. I appreciate it a lot.

Where do put a night like this?

I have huge plans with India so this game should be one of the top ones. No, I'm really happy because it's been tremendous work in the past seven weeks. And that's what happens when you give me enough time to work with these boys. When you give me these players one or two days prior to the, I will not use that word, then you'll get shut as simple as that. You need to think about the future, how much these boys deserve to be together, and present India like this.

And of course, if I'm with them, I won't let them lower the level of the game. They showed everyone what they can do now. So, they don't have the right to bring the level down. It's really important when you have so many quality players on the bench and each one of them comes as a substitute and performs better than the one who came out. That was not the case before. So, I appreciate all the players and their families who were very supportive. Everyone who was with us throughout the difficult times and the good times and it was a brilliant experience.

For the last three-four years, India was not doing well. What suddenly changed for the team and what was the motivation?

Motivation is qualifying for Asian Cup and proving to all those who are thinking that we are not good enough that they are wrong. I had a point to prove also because I came here with such a CV and such experience. And then I put myself in a position where some people start doubting me as a coach. What will that look like? So, I was putting myself at big risk. Because believe me, it's easy to be a coach and Arsenal, the Man City, and there when you have these players, come here and reconstruct the team, the way everybody's expecting, okay, show me what you can do.

So, it's a different perspective. You know, when you look from your point of view, you look at it with different eyes. I look with clarity. I'm not guessing and I'm not wondering, you do that. I have clarity on what we need to do. And I follow that. And in that way, there is happiness, there is suffering, and there is luck. But to come to the end of the road, you need to go through it, you cannot go back, going back brings nothing. We look into the future where we want to be we want to be at every Asian Cup final. Apart from that, we want to compete strongly for the World Cup qualifiers. And that was clearly said at the beginning of our work.

What has been the biggest reward for you as an India coach?

Trust from players. They never lose faith in what we did and that’s why we played like we did today. We knew what was going on around us and I knew that if at any point my players stopped following what we do, I would’ve gone back home. The players are trying to save my job. I came here for a less salary than what was my market price. I had offers from others for better-paid jobs than I saw in India. The coach was never the problem in this country, you should talk about other problems.

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