Indian football team head coach Igor Stimac is looking for players with strong character ahead of his side's first match in the AFC Asian Cup 2023.

The Blue Tigers announced their 26-man squad for the continental event on Saturday. India has been placed in a tough group consisting of Australia, Syria and Uzbekistan. The Blue Tigers will begin their campaign against Australia followed by matches against Uzbekistan and Syria.

Stimac feels that all of his side's players are similar in quality but said he was looking for players with a strong sense of character while finalising the final squad. 

“All these boys from the list are very similar by the football quality so what we are looking for the final list of 26 is definitely experience, physical strength and the final line would be drawn by the strength of their character,” Stimac said in an interview.

This is something which is really important for us as a team, as a family because no matter the talent if there is no character nothing can be achieved,” he added.

In their FIFA World Cup 2026 Qualifiers games held in November, India had beaten Kuwait 1-0 away from home but lost at home to Qatar by 3-0. Stimac’s side have just recorded two clean sheets in their last six matches. Stimac wants to work on his side's defensive game ahead of the start of the AFC Asian Cup to fix their problems in the backline.

“The things we are looking to work on are defensive compactness, offensive transition and the set pieces mostly,” he said.

“It is also going to be very important to work on man marking inside the box because I was not happy with that part of our game. In the last few games we started leaking some unnecessary goals inside the box because marking was not properly done there,” he added.

India are the lowest-ranked side in the group, sitting at the 102nd position in the FIFA Rankings, and will face stiff competition from Australia (38), Uzbekistan (68) and Syria (91). In the previous edition, the Blue Tigers won their opening game, but couldn't make it past the group stages. Stimac mentioned his side won't change their approach for their group games and wants his players to maintain the highest possible fitness levels.

“All three opponents are very good sides. Technically good, physically strong, with great speed so we are not going to have much difference in approach in all these three games “ Stimac said.

“The main point and main focus for us will be to check the fitness level of our players at the present and to see what kind of final decision we are going to make, but there will not be much difference,” he added.