Three points against Cambodia would mean nothing if we don't win against Afghanistan: India head coach Igor Stimac

Indian men’s football team head Igor Stimac believes that three points against Cambodia in the first match of the third round of the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers won’t count for anything if his team failed to collect three against Afghanistan. The Blue Tigers will be facing Afghanistan as the next opponent and the visitors are coming off a 2-1 defeat to Hong Kong.

With a 2-0 win over Cambodia in their last match, the Indian football team started their campaign on a good note. After the first round of matches, the Blue Tigers are in first place in Group D, but for qualifying, they still need to win the rest of the matches.

On the other hand, regardless of recent performances, the Lions of Khorasan have the ability to derail the host team's hopes. The Afghani team would be looking to make a comeback. While the Blue Tigers under Igor Stimac has yet to defeat the Afghans, with both games in the World Cup Qualifiers ending in draws.

Ahead of the much-awaited game the Indian head coach Stimac addressed the media during an official pre-match press conference.

Here are the excerpts from the coach’s press conference:

You have already three points in your bag. How motivated are you for the next two matches?

It helps obviously, in regards to the confidence in the team in the dressing room. We had our ups and downs previously. Once the competition starts, the best possible way is to start winning the game. And that's what we did.

The atmosphere in our dressing room is brilliant and it's positive. It was positive before also, but we didn't have wins prior to the tournament. It was really important to start with a win in the tournament.

But obviously, these three points and a win against Cambodia mean nothing if we don't get three points against Afghanistan. At the moment, as we look at the job, which we need to do here that’s why are we here. We need to win against Afghanistan simple as that.

You had a pretty easy match against Cambodia. So, are you expecting a tougher fight against Afghanistan?

First of all, I will say now, that you can say we had an easier match against Cambodia because we played well. That's what made it easier. If we didn't play well, as we did, that match would be very complicated.

And of course, the match against Afghanistan is going to be much different, because you could see, if you watch the game, between Hong Kong and Afghanistan, there was lots of quality movement, lots of quality and quick passing, changing positions, many crosses into the box where Afghanistan team is good in aerials duels and they are very good in attack.

And that's what we need to handle. We need to stay concentrated, disciplined, and being composed on the ball in the ball possession as simple as that.

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In Indian team, there are no potential scorers apart from Sunil Chhetri. So, is that an area of concern?

I'm tired of answering this question. I'm not worried while Sunil is with us. I don't care that other are not scoring while he's scoring. When he's not here with us, others will be scoring but why to look for someone else if he's scoring two goals again and again.

You said that it will be a different game against Afghanistan. Do we see a chance of let's say, Udanta starting? And what are the chances of playing both Brandon and Anirudh Thapa?

We still haven't decided on the starting lineup. And for obvious reasons, there is another night in front of us another training in front of us tonight, this evening. Another, I would say 30-36 hours prior to the game, where we need to see how some of the players will recover from the first game.

But what I'm sure about is that we need all fully fit players for this game. No one with any kind of doubt, with any kind of trouble, I don't want any player bringing any kind of fear or minor injury to the pitch at the beginning of the game. So, we'll see tomorrow morning, after the screening where we stand, we're going to decide upon the team, we're going to handle individual meetings, line meetings, and team meetings and go for it. All options are open.

Exactly a year ago, when you played against Afghanistan. It ended 1-1 but you reacted very strongly to the result it was if I'm allowed to say it was one of the most disappointing results. Is there anything to learn from that match?

I wouldn't say I was so upset and disappointed with the result because we needed one point from that game. And when you have certain things which are defining and making easier your planning of the game and approach to the game then, and you're making it happen. Why would you be disappointed I was not disappointed.  But on the other hand, we scored a lucky goal, I would say that what I was happy about that game was that we were better than Afghanistan in each segment of the game. If I remember, well, our quality of game index was 230 points and Afghanistan was 215.

We had better ball possession and more shots on target. And absolutely by all the segments, we deserved to win the game but we couldn't. l was not disappointed because we fulfilled our aim, we qualify, and we want the third position in our group which was expected by everyone.

So, I see the chance now for us. As I see the situation, we are in better shape now than one year ago because if I remember well in that time all our players were in off-season, we went to Qatar and faced many troubles being quarantined, being kept in the hotel rooms for 10 days, not being able to train. And in such preparation, we waited for the game, you know while Afghanistan players came from the full swing competitions in Europe. So, there are many things which are defining the result at the end or the mood in the team. I can say freely that I'm very confident about the situation we are in now. And my expectation is that we're going to win this game.

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Hong Kong played a very high-pressing game against Afghanistan in the first match. So, do you think India can take away something from that game and learn how to play that way?

There were different phases in that game. Obviously, in the first phase, where legs were still fresh, Hong Kong players were making, I wouldn't say high press, it was a middle press. Whenever the ball was passed, in the middle of Hong Kong players were there.

They were taking the balls over Afghani midfielders and even scoring the first goal out of one of these middle presses. But later on, you cannot make a high press for more than 15 minutes with such humidity and, and in these weather conditions. You need to be very careful because making high press and not scoring out of it can put you in trouble later on for the rest of the game. So, the game goes on for 90 minutes. We don't have a reason to rush anywhere they do.

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