Stimac: Constantly working on improving the numbers and raising the bar

India’s national team head coach Igor Stimac discussed the improvement shown by the Blue Tigers since his arrival in May 2019 during a session of the International Virtual Coaching Conference hosted by the All India Football Federation (AIFF). The Croat believes that his team has shown improvement in many areas of the pitch and although there is still a long way to go, the players are constantly working towards ‘raising the bar’.

“We are really proud of the players and how they have executed their job so far. They have been doing the right job. There has been an overall improvement. Number of passes as well as the duration of playing with the ball has gone up significantly. We are constantly working on improving the numbers and raising the bar,” Stimac said.

Having worked hard on improving the team’s passing, the 53-year-old head coach is now concentrating on the crossing ability of his pacey wingers, Stimac said, “In order to improve our passing, we throw in our players to small-sided games. It improves players’ passing accuracy and their movements after passing the ball. We need our wingers to be more confident in 1v1 positions. Ashique (Kuruniyan) and Udanta (Singh) are the quickest guys in our team. Now, we need to work harder to improve their crossing.”

The Croat has set his goals high with the national team. His immediate objective is to qualify for the AFC Asian Cup in 2023 followed by his long-term goal of qualifying for the FIFA World Cup finals. “Everyone involved with Indian football is working hard to make it count. Our short-term goal is to qualify for the next AFC Asian Cup which will grow our confidence and then advance further. Our long-term goal is obviously to qualify for the FIFA World Cup,” he shared.

During the interactive session, Stimac also had some advice for aspiring Indian coaches. “As a coach, you need to enhance your knowledge so you can help your players become more knowledgeable. We need to develop our mindset. You need to take care of young talented players and create a great positive atmosphere within your dressing room. Unless you have proper knowledge, your players will not follow you,” he said.

Stimac then went on to stress the importance of a protein-based diet for players, which he insisted helps improve their strength. “Muscle strength is immensely important in sports globally. We need to increase usage of protein in our diet which will help you to lower the fatigue level and increase the work rate on the pitch,” he explained.

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