Stimac: Lack of experience cost us the match

The Indian national football team suffered a heartbreaking 1-2 loss to Oman after conceding twice in the dying moments of their opening encounter of the joint preliminary 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers played at Guwahati on Thursday. Sunil Chhetri’s well-worked first half strike was the difference for more than three-quarters of the match, following which, Al Mandhar Al Alawi struck twice in under ten minutes to steal a win for the Reds.

After the match, Blue Tigers head coach Igor Stimac spoke to the media and expressed his overall thoughts on the proceedings. He said, "We are very sad. We deserved more from this game. I don’t know why we were punished. We could score many goals in the first half. We could have punished the Oman team heavily in the first half."

"We could have finished the game, killed it. We were not lucky there. We didn’t have enough concentration or enough experience in scoring goals. You see all our goals come from Sunil. He cannot score every time. But I cannot blame anyone. My lads made me very proud. I think they made all Indian people proud today," he added.

When asked about how he was going to motivate his players after such a near miss, Stimac answered, "I have already done my job. They are already motivated. This game, we don’t talk about this game anymore. From this second, we start preparing for Qatar. It's not going to be easy. Qatar is a different league in Asia. We are going to need to change 4-5 players. We’ll see how they feel. There’s no reason to fear going there. We will go there to try and play football and score goals."

The Croatian then pointed out the lack of experience within his squad as the primary reason behind the last gasp defeat. He said, "They can run 90 minutes now. They are ready for 90 minutes. But there is a difference in how you run. That’s about experience, that’s not about fitness condition."

"After 70 minutes, our only mistake was running with the ball too quick and losing the ball. When you are in lead, you need to keep passing the ball and make the opponent run and suffer and chase. We can't afford to lose the ball after three seconds. So, it’s about experience," he further explained.

Stimac also gave an explanation on why he brought on Sahal Abdul Samad so late in the encounter. “We conceded a goal in the 91st minute. So, there were two-three minutes left where we could come on the side and put crosses. We needed another player in the middle. We left three at the back. We tried to use Sahal to put the ball on the side for our wingers. That was the only way we could have done something. If anything happened in the middle, Sahal can go through and shoot on goal. He is that kind of a player. We didn’t have too many options," he said.

Oman head coach Erwin Koeman shared his thoughts and said, "India played well in the first half. I was disappointed in my team at half time. Our goalkeeper had a difficult game but he was the only one. We didn't play to our potential and India deserved the 1-0 lead at half time. But in the second half the game changed. We kept going and finally, we scored two fantastic goals."

Speaking about team's hero of the night Al Mandhar, he said, "Al Mandhar is new in the team and I believe in him. He has excellent movement and with the two goals today, you saw what he brings to the team late in the game."

Read the Match Report here.

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