Stimac: Nepal friendlies big opportunity to standardise first XI for India

National coach Igor Stimac believes the upcoming two international friendlies against Nepal give India a big opportunity to find the players who can represent the Blue Tigers in future with distinction.

India play Nepal at the Dasharath Stadium in Kathmandu on September 2 and September 5. “Every game is crucial, especially from the senior team’s point of view. We are going to use these two games to standardise the first XI, to get more attention on the 14-15 players who will be in charge of the national team in future,” Stimac said on the latest episode of Football United. 

After these two matches, India will be back in action in October for the 2021 SAFF Championship featuring five teams – hosts Maldives, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal. Stimac acknowledges that his team will be under pressure in that competition.

“We will be under pressure because most people, not just in India, are considering us favourites, together with Maldives. We take full responsibility for this tournament. I just hope players are fit enough, until then we can’t represent India in a really good way,” he said.

Stimac took charge of the Indian team in May 2019 but a few months after his arrival the novel coronavirus wreaked havoc worldwide, giving him very little time to meet his targets he would have had at the start of his tenure. However, the Croatian says he is happy with the improvement the players have shown during this period in light of the restrictions they have faced because of the pandemic.

“I’m happy with the progress of players considering the circumstances we went through. There was just one camp during this period, the last qualifiers where we had enough time to work together and prepare the team in the way we wanted. The rest of the camps, we were receiving players off the season and most of the focus was on their fitness than on their style of play. Football in the final third was obviously missing. Hopefully, we will have more time in the future to improve on this part of the game,” he said.

At the same time, Stimac admits that the challenges are very big for the Blue Tigers in the near future because of their new approach. “Challenges are very big because we decided to drastically change the team. We decided to make new selections, looking for more technical players who can provide better passing, can play more straight and exciting football,” the 53-year-old said.


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