The Indian football team will be looking to end their 49th King’s Cup campaign on a winning note as they take on Lebanon in the third-place playoff clash at the 700th Anniversary Stadium, Chiang Mai, Thailand on Sunday.

India went down to Iraq on penalties in the first semi-final of the tournament on Thursday. Hosts Thailand recorded a 2-1 victory against Lebanon in the other semi-final to set up a clash with Iraq for the title. Reflecting on the result against the Gulf nation, India head coach Igor Stimac was pleased with the performance of his side. 

“I am very happy with my boy’s performance. Iraq is a much higher-ranked side. But we gave a good fight and took the lead twice. Throughout the game, you can see Iraq had more quality but we deserved more from the game,” he said in the pre-match press conference.

The Blue Tigers will be facing Lebanon for the fourth time in 2023 after battling it out twice in the Intercontinental Cup and once in the SAFF Championship. India have been unbeaten against Lebanon this year, registering two draws and one win.

The last meeting between these two sides was in the SAFF Championship semi-final where Stimac’s team edged Lebanon on penalties. Stimac told fans that they could expect a more attacking game from his side.

“We can expect an open game. I am just asking my boys to be creative on the pitch, to enjoy football and celebrate football when they come out on the pitch,” he said.

India secured bronze in the previous edition of the King’s Cup in 2019, beating hosts Thailand. That tournament was Stimac’s first assignment as India head coach. The team has come a long way since then and have produced a good run of results this year. Stimac explained how time and patience is important for results to bear fruit.

“I was there four years ago when I started my work in India. Many people could not understand at that time what was going on. But it’s a process. What Alex is doing with Lebanon is what we did four years ago and time is needed in football for coaches to teach their philosophy, and make players understand what kind of football they need to adjust to and how to execute it on the pitch. I just hope it’s a very competitive game from both sides and players on both sides enjoy it,” Stimac explained.

Stimac also offered an update on the condition of Lallianzuala Chhangte, who missed the game against Iraq due to fever. The Croat also revealed that forwards Ashique Kuruniyan and Rahim Ali picked up knocks in the same and hinted that the duo could be on the bench against Lebanon.

“Chhangte is available but he had a fever the last three-four days and I am not sure he can start the game. We will see how he feels today. Fever takes out a lot of energy from the body. I will speak to him on how he feels and we will make a decision together,” Stimac said.

“We do have some issues with injuries from the first game with Ashique Kuruniyan and Rahim Ali. I hope they get better and they get involved in the game but I don’t expect them to start and I’ll not risk these players. They are important to their clubs and there’s no need to push them from the first minute. So there will be changes,” he further said.