Very happy for my boys and proud: Igor Stimac on India’s Hero Intercontinental Cup victory
Indian football team head coach Igor Stimac was delighted for his players as they retained the Hero Intercontinental Cup and was pleased with the performance the Blue Tigers put up in the final to beat Lebanon 2-0 at the Kalinga Stadium, in Bhubaneswar, on Sunday.
Indian football team head coach Igor Stimac was delighted for his players as they retained the Hero Intercontinental Cup title and was pleased with the performance the Blue Tigers put up in the final to beat Lebanon 2-0 at the Kalinga Stadium, in Bhubaneswar, on Sunday.
The home side were wasteful in the opening half, but landed the killer blow in the second half with Sunil Chhetri and Lallianzuala Chhangte delivering the goals. It was a solid win for India, who ended the tournament unbeaten.
Extremely proud of the #BlueTigers’ for playing as a unit and showing immense character. #HeroIntercontinentalCup Champions!!💙🇮🇳— Igor Štimac (@stimac_igor) June 19, 2023
Huge thank you to all the fans that showed up and everyone supporting from home 🙏🏼 pic.twitter.com/7jUwcGHDIM
They were held to a goalless draw by Lebanon in the previous game, but proved to be much more effective in the summit clash to win the final. Stimac mentioned how his side worked hard to cause problems for Lebanon and credited his player for their efforts.
“We delivered, as I said. I am very happy for the boys, not for myself. It’s just another game. I feel sorry for them for they couldn't win the previous game against Lebanon. They absolutely deserved it with the numbers we had after the game - runs, sprints, tackles, jumps, passing accuracy, creating chances. Overall, we were a far better side but that’s football,” Stimac stated in the post-match press conference.
“In the final we worked much harder and pushed more and more until we opened them. As a coach, I'm very happy for my boys and proud of them. All credit must go to them, I'm just helping them to rise up,” he further said.
This was the eighth win for India in nine games at home, a run beginning from the AFC Asian Cup 2023 Qualifiers in June 2022. The Blue Tigers have registered an impressive tally of eight clean sheets during this run while netting 16 goals. However, Stimac was quick to downplay India’s victory and pointed out how they still have a long way to go before the AFC Asian Cup.
“I know we can do better. As a coach I cannot show satisfaction, where are we going to go that way? We are looking to work, do more and push for more. Lebanon are already behind us (in the current FIFA rankings), they are not a better ranked side. Sorry to say that, but we jumped over them (in the rankings) a few days ago. It’s still a long way to go. When you go out there in the (AFC Asian Cup) and face Australia and Uzbekistan, you really need to be ready for everything and all sorts of quality in football. And we are going to get there, give me time,” Stimac explained.
The Blue Tigers will shift their focus to the SAFF Championship, which commences on Wednesday. India are set to take on Pakistan in their opening game, followed by matches against Nepal and Kuwait. Following the end of the SAFF Championship in Bengaluru, Stimac’s side will be in action in Thailand during the King’s Cup, scheduled for September.
Stimac will work with the same group of players from the Hero Intercontinental Cup in the upcoming SAFF Championship, but raised concerns over the availability of some players who missed the ongoing tournament in Bhubaneswar.
“We are using each second of our time for certain improvements,” Stimac mentioned.
"I think we have five games to go in the next 12-14 days. It’s going to be another challenge, but we are going to get to the finish line, don't worry. But this doesn't mean anything about where we are in January next year and who will survive until then. The King’s Cup in Thailand is another excitement. We are going to go there and face some good sides, but without preparation. We are going to try to use what we worked on here, but will we have all these players who we worked with? That’s the problem. We didn't have here (in the Hero Intercontinental Cup) a minimum of four starters in our team - Brandon (Fernandes), Manvir (Singh), Suresh (Singh Wangjam) and the fourth player (Chinglensana Singh) and even some more. But are they going to be there, fit and ready?," he concluded.