Igor Stimac appointed as new head coach of Indian national team

Former Croatia defender Igor Stimac will take over the reins as the new head coach of the Indian national football team. The All India Football Federation (AIFF), on Wednesday, officially announced Stimac's appointment to the post, vacated by Englishman Stephen Constantine after India's exit from the AFC Asian Cup 2019 group stages back in January.

The 51-year-old comes in with almost 15 years of coaching experience under his belt, which started with his hometown club Hajduk Split in 2005. The Croat tasted success in his very first coaching stint, guiding the team to the Croatian First Football League in his very first season. Hajduk also finished runners up in the Croatian Football Cup. He then moved onto coaching a couple of other Croatian clubs before taking over the coveted job as the head coach of the Croatia national football team in 2012. Stimac held office for a year and helped the team to the 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifying play-offs. He stepped down in 2013.

During his time in charge of the national team, Stimac handed debuts to the likes of Mateo Kovacic, Ante Rebic and Alen Halilovic. He also played a crucial part in the development of some of the present-day global superstars like Luka Modric, Mario Mandzukic, Ivan Rakitic and others. In fact,12 players who featured in Stimac's national side went on to feature in Croatia's run to the final of the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia.

More recently, Stimac has coached in Asia, serving as the head coach of Iranian side Sepahan (2015-16) and Qatari side Al-Shahania (2016-17).

Stimac is known for his pragmatic approach to the game and excels in formulating highly-strategized set-piece routines. His stellar organizational skills may just be what is needed to help the Blue Tigers ascend to the next stage.

During his playing days, Stimac was part of the historic Croatia 'Golden Generation', which shocked the world by reaching the World Cup semi-finals back in 1998. The centre back, who partnered Slaven Bilic at the heart of the Croatia backline for years, made his debut for the Vatreni in 1990 and was a regular part of the national team setup till 2002, making 53 appearances along the way. Before Croatia's independence in 1991, Stimac represented the former state of Yugoslavia during his youth career and won the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 1987.

Stimac has played club football for several teams in his home country but is perhaps best remembered for his stints in England for Derby County and West Ham United. The Croat achieved cult hero status for the former after helping the Rams secure promotion to the Premiership in the 1995-96 season. His exploits at Derby earned him an exclusive lounge called Igor's at the team's Pride Park Stadium.

His first assignment at the helm of the Blue Tigers will be the King's Cup in Thailand. India will face Curacao in the first match on June 5.

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