Stimac: Was brought in to change the way India plays and we are doing that

India take on Afghanistan in a tricky away fixture at the Central Republican Stadium in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, in a bid to get their first win in Group E of the FIFA World Cup 2022 and AFC Asian Cup 2023 joint qualifiers on Thursday. Coming off a somewhat disappointing draw against Bangladesh in their last fixture, the Blue Tigers will be eager to put up a good showing against Anoush Dastgir's side in their adopted home stadium.

Speaking at the pre-match press conference, India’s head coach Igor Stimac reiterated his confidence in the direction Indian football is taking and said, "We are in the process of building a new team for the future and we are concentrating on the FIFA World Cup 2026. We are building a whole new team. It’s a long and difficult process. Before my time, India were playing with six players at the back, playing long balls and trying to attack with just the forward players. I was brought in to change that. We have shown that we can play against formidable opponents, like the games against Oman and Qatar.”

Asked about what sort of a challenge he was expecting in the upcoming match, the Croat opined, "We have a very difficult game ahead of us. We both faced Qatar as well as Bangladesh. I think both teams have very similar qualities. We see Afghanistan as a physical side with good composure. Some of their players have gained experience in European countries. Playing in Europe adds an extra quality and I can recognize this in a team when I watch their games. It's not going to be an easy game for us for sure. We know how important the game is.”

“Against Bangladesh, we had good statistics, many good chances. I was happy with the way we created our chances, but not about the chances we allowed Bangladesh. We are working on resolving these issues. We are facing some injury issues… we are not a team who can replace important players easily. We lost (Sandesh) Jhingan and (Rowllin) Borges. But I’m happy Pronay (Halder) is back. He has played some good games in the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 19-20. We are playing better football. We are trying to create chances and trying to be a composed team with good shape and discipline. We need to rest our players because most of them played their last game just a few days back. After the travelling, the players need to rest for at least 40 hours to get ready for the game. What I can say is that we are very happy that the Indian people are following us with a lot of passion. They have great expectations for Indian football now and we must do our best to make them proud,” he added.

Afghanistan lost their game against Asian Champions Qatar 6-0, lost 3-0 against Oman but beat Bangladesh 1-0. Speaking about which game he would be holding as a benchmark to gauge and measure the opposition, Stimac revealed, “We have great respect for the Afghanistan team. We have seen all their games. They have shown different faces but it’s normal. Anyone can lose against Qatar by six to seven goals in Asia. So, I don’t consider that game as the game we need to analyse. The game they played against Bangladesh was very interesting to me because they have shown great composure during the 90 minutes, a stable game with a clear idea, and with patience.”

Joining head coach Stimac was midfielder Pronay Halder, who shared his take on the team's preparations. "Preparation is going very well. We just want to execute whatever the coach says. We have the confidence that if we execute the plans, we can go for a good result."

Read the match preview here.

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