India won’t play for a draw, insists Stimac ahead of Afghanistan tie
India head coach Igor Stimac has said in plain terms that the Blue Tigers will be eyeing nothing less than a win when they take on Afghanistan in their last Group E Round 2 game of the 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in Doha on Tuesday.
With six points from seven games, India need just one point to finish third and directly qualify for the third round of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup to be held in China but Stimac dismissed speculations that his team might play for a draw.
“I need to say that I don’t know any coach or any team who would come out playing for a draw. Even that might seem to be a situation when you are facing much better sides. Then, you need to drop and defend for your life and wait for one, two or three chances to counter-attack like against Qatar. But we are not going out to play for a draw. Rather, we will go out to win it,” he said in a pre-match press conference.
“That’s what we are aiming to do. We need to start doing it from kick-off. I know and am very confident that all our boys are ready and fit. They need to enjoy the game,” he added.
Though Stimac admitted his team is high on confidence after beating Bangladesh 2-0 in their last game, they understand very well that the task against Afghanistan will be much tougher.
“The result against Bangladesh makes us confident …Afghanistan are a better side than Bangladesh, and it will not be easy. Afghanistan are full of players with international experience, and most of the players are playing in foreign leagues. You can recognise it when you gauge their confidence on the ball. But at the same time, we see our chance and need to go out on the pitch and play good football and to make sure we finish this tournament [Round 2] on a winning note,” the Croatian said.
“As a coach, I have tried to prepare our team in the best possible way -- to keep them motivated. Wearing the national team jersey is the biggest motivation for any player, and it comes with a huge responsibility. You know how big a population is backing us, and whoever is wearing the Indian shirt has that unique chance to make the 1.4 billion people proud,” the 53-year-old added.
Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, who accompanied Stimac to the press conference, echoed his coach’s sentiments on the issue of Afghanistan and the challenge they bring with them. “I think it’s important for us to stay fresh and face this new challenge against a very good side. Afghanistan have good quality players who can manipulate the ball and convert if given the chance. So, we need to make sure that as players, we stick to the plan and that we make life difficult for the other team and try to finish with a smile,” he said.