Stimac urges players to learn from Oman defeat

India lost 1-0 against Oman at the Sultan Qaboos Stadium in Muscat on Tuesday after a 33rd minute strike from Muhsen Saleh Al Ghassani. The Blue Tigers now have three points from five games in Group E and will be hoping for a strong finish in their remaining three matches to climb higher in the group.

The Blue Tigers’ head coach Igor Stimac admitted that he was disappointed with the result at the post-match press conference. “Congratulations to Oman and I wish them all the luck in the upcoming Gulf Cup which is very important for them. I think the game was good and exciting. Oman had more chances, so they deserved to win. We were a better side in the second half, but we could not find a way to score the goal. That has been our main problem in these five games. All our goals came for set pieces. The main reason why is because we are missing many players who can score goals. There is indecision and inaccuracy in the box, and we need to work on that problem.”

“Oman is a better side than India, but we are coming close (to them). We showed in the two games (against them) that we can play against teams like Oman, who I consider among the best teams in Asia. They have quality, they are physical, they have strength and speed. As a coach I must be proud of my players, even today. They could do better in the first half but that is a learning process. We have many young players and need to get used to that and reduce the mistakes,” the 52-year-old added.

India lost Adil Khan as well as Pronay Halder to injuries in the first half and while elaborating on the loss of the duo, the Croat said, “We have been facing such problems from the beginning of the qualifications. But it was not only us, it was Oman as well. The problem is that there are not enough competitive matches internationally to play high intensity football for 90 minutes. But today, we faced different problems, we could not pick up the high balls, and that is what killed us.”

India’s next game will be against Qatar and despite the loss to Oman, Stimac backed his system to work against the Asian champions. “We are not changing our system for anyone. We are developing our game and we are improving inside our system. If we start changing our system because of the teams we are facing, we are not going to improve. It’s as simple as that, so, we stick with our system. We are improving on positions. We are trying to develop our players’ strength and conditions. I want my India to play without fear against anyone because that’s the beauty of football. Never mind who is on the opposite side. You have a chance to win the game. But if you are adapting your way of play according to the opposite team, you must be weak. You show weakness. I don’t want my team to show weakness,” he said.

Stimac then went on to praise the performance of Ashique Kuruniyan, who has been deployed at left-back by the Croatian coach. “I decided to go with Ashique Kuruniyan in that position because of how he played against Afghanistan in the second half while in that position. He is very quick. He can run past three players. He is very dangerous when he comes from behind. He’s not a goal scorer. So, it’s the same for him whether he plays as a left fullback or left winger. He served really well today. I think he has the capacity to play in Europe. He is very young. He is very quick. He learns very quick and he is one of the players who will have a good future in Indian football,” he said.

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