Rankings won’t win us matches, we have to earn it: India head coach Igor Stimac

Indian men’s national football team head coach Igor Stimac was delighted at the opportunity to play in front of the home support as India prepares to host the Group D matches of the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers in June but felt his team must not take anything for granted.

India, ranked 104th in the Fifa rankings are the highest-ranked team in the Group alongside Hong Kong (148), Afghanistan (150) and Cambodia (171). But Stimac suggested there can be no room for complacency.

“Rankings will not win us games. We need to be aware of our quality, have faith in what we do and prove everything on the pitch. We have to earn everything. There is no easy opponent today in football, and whoever underestimates, pays a big price,” Stimac told The Times of India in an interview.

“We will prepare ourselves well for the three games. It’s different because there is no round-robin format. It's one game against each opponent which is a risk, but we are also playing at home, we are the best-ranked team,” added Stimac.

The Croatian was also looking forward to playing in Kolkata where he felt the fans could make a big difference.

“We have played only two games at home since we started our (Asian Cup qualifying) campaign and that was terrible for us,” he said.

“It’s going to be a pleasure to have the chance to present a new India team to our supporters and have the 12th player in the stands,” he added.

The Indian men’s football team are looking to reach the AFC Asian Cup final on successive occasions for the first time in history and the team will look to carry on from the good work after the triumph in the SAFF Championships last year.

India are set to face Bahrain in a friendly match on March 23 before taking on Belarus on March 26 as preparation to the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers picks up pace after the conclusion of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) campaign.

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