Our attacking players must learn to play and score without Sunil Chhetri: India head coach Igor Stimac

Indian men’s football team head coach Igor Stimac stated that other Indian forwards need to start contributing with goals and learn to play in the absence of their star forward Sunil Chhetri after their win over Cambodia in the opening match of the third round of AFC Asian Cup qualifiers.

Stimac though was pleased with his team's overall performance as they got their AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers off to a perfect start at the Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata on Wednesday.

A brace from Sunil Chhetri (13’, 60’) was enough to help the Blue Tigers get a big win, that takes them to the top of their group. The Blue Tigers will be back in action on Saturday against Afghanistan.

Match Report: Sunil Chhetri nets a brace as India cruise past Cambodia in AFC Asian Cup qualifiers opener

Stimac addressed the media after the match.

Here are the excerpts from the post-match press conference:

What are your thoughts on the game?

Just a few words on the win. A big thanks to the boys who played today. It was really difficult because you couldn’t breathe outside today. I understand that the brain isn’t working properly and oxygen isn’t coming up there when needed.

The players did the best they could do today and got the result we wanted. They got the job done, which is very important. I asked for two things today, goals and clean sheets. I would’ve been happier with 3-4 goals but was happy with two too. I’m confident about what is coming up.

What would be the fair result in your opinion?

A fair result would’ve been if we had won by 4-0. We had 4-5 more clear chances, so two more goals would’ve served well. But, we must be humble. The players are trying but are not finding a way to score.

You must wonder why I took Sunil and Brandon (Fernnandes) out, who were the two more influential players. We have three games and we need to protect the players. And in this game, it’s again Sunil. Others are still trying but aren't able to find the goals. I expect Liston (Colaco), Manvir (Singh), Udanta (Singh), and Ashique (Kuruniyan) to score. They all need to start scoring. Our boys need to learn to start playing without Sunil.

Also Read: Happy to win and keep a clean sheet, but we can do better, says Sunil Chhetri

Do you think in this game things went according to your plan?

Every game brings different things. It’s how the players can adapt to what I’m asking. As a coach analyses the opponents and finds the biggest weaknesses of the players. I ask them to adapt to the things when the time comes and that is a big task. When it’s a stronger opponent it’s difficult to press, but we can use that against lower opposition. We have youth in our squad and we have gained a lot of experiences for them in the past few years.

It’s the time that they give back. As you saw today, Roshan (Singh), Suresh (Singh), and Akash (Mishra) played as if they played for 100 games. They are the players who will wear the shirt for the next 10-12 years. The results will keep coming.

How serious is Roshan Singh's injury?

It's just a cramp. He should be okay. He is a very fit boy. He could go on, but we didn’t want to risk him. I told him not to go forward towards the end, just to pass it left and right.

He was sprinting and trying to shoot and cross till the end. I love these types of players, players who are bringing passion and are ready to get injured for the national team, and are not afraid of anything. He can serve as an example for everybody.

How important is it to have fullbacks who are comfortable with both feet?

It was our secret weapon. Now, everyone knows about it. I was telling them not to use the weak foot, but they started using it already. They will be okay. I love their quality, it’s fantastic to have young boys in critical positions using both feet in amazing ways, shooting, crossing, and working forward at full speed. I’m proud of them.

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