Indian football team head coach Igor Stimac was proud of his team despite losing to Uzbekistan by a 0-3 scoreline in the AFC Asian Cup 2023 at the Ahmed bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar, on Thursday.

Abbosbek Fayzullaev, Igor Sergeyev, and Sherzod Nasrullaev found the back of the net for Uzbekistan, dealing India a huge blow of making it to the next round. This was the second straight defeat for the Blue Tigers after their defeat to Australia in the opener.

Stimac was unhappy in the manner with the way his team conceded the goals against Uzbekistan, but was proud of the effort shown by his players.

“It was an exciting game. Congratulations to Uzbekistan. They deserve to win this game. They could score a few more, but we could score a few too. If we take the goals away, which were caused again by our silly mistakes, I could be (proud) even with the performance, with the intention, with trying, with composure, with passing,” Stimac said in the post-match press conference.

India made three changes to their line up from the game against Australia, which included the exclusion of Lallianzuala Chhangte, who was named on the bench. Meanwhile, Liston Colaco was not part of the squad, having featured as a substitute in the opening game.

Stimac reiterated that losing many key players together is creating difficulties for them in such a significant competition apart from facing high quality opposition. He also encouraged his side to learn from their mistakes and evolve.

“But at the moment, this is our reality without too many key players. We lost Lallianzuala Chhangte prior to this game. Liston Colaco, who got a fever, was doing really well at the training sessions, but options were limited, to be honest. And it is obvious that strength and speed (of the opponents) are causing us problems at this level. So, we need to work on ourselves and take the positives out of everything. We are a growing team, and learning from lessons like this will give us good momentum in the future,” he continued.

“There is another game left, which is giving us hope. But the hope will be alive there only if we eliminate these micro details that are killing us at the moment,” he added.

India conceded all their goals against Uzbekistan inside the first half, two of them coming inside the first 18 minutes. While India had more possession compared to their opponents, they were put under pressure by the opposition attack throughout the game. Stimac admitted that allowing time and space to a heavy-weight opponent like Uzbekistan cost his side points.

“The boys looked fantastic on the training pitch. They were focused, disciplined, and looking great. We went into this game very confidently. It’s never a convenient time to concede a goal, either in the first 15 seconds or in the last minute of the game. If you allow Uzbekistan time and space, they will kill you. That’s what we did today,” he commented.

The head coach feels sad for their numerous supporters who flocked to the stadium to support the team and the outcome of the game, but he promises that his players can make them happy this year with their performances.

“We’re very sad about disappointing them today and feel sorry that it couldn’t happen today. I can promise that these boys can give you (supporters) lots of happiness this year,” Stimac said.

“We need to stick by them, be supportive of them, and push them forward. Let’s stick together for the final game. Let’s see each other after five days and try to push these boys to get the win in the final game (against Syria), which might give us the opportunity to go forward in the eliminatory round,” he signed off.