Indian men's national team head coach expressed that the team will carry forward a “brave attitude” in the international friendly match against hosts Bahrain on Wednesday.

India have travelled to Bahrain to play two friendly matches against Bahrain and Belarus. These are the first international matches the Indian team will play after winning the 2021 SAFF Championship in the Maldives in October last year.

The two international friendlies are part of the team’s preparations for the final round of the AFC Asian Cup China 2023 Qualifiers, which will be held in Kolkata from June 8. India are in Group D along with Hong Kong, Afghanistan and Cambodia.

24 teams have been divided into six groups, and the group winners, along with the five best second-placed teams will earn a ticket to the AFC Asian Cup in China.

Stimac addressed the media in the pre-match press conference ahead of Thursday’s game.

Here are the excerpts from the press conference:

You have added seven new faces for these two international friendlies. What are you expecting from your team and especially from new players?

I want to give these boys the opportunity to play against good opponents and I expect them to carry a brave attitude tomorrow once they are on the pitch. I will try to put my best starting eleven with some new faces and want to see how they do against higher-ranked teams and later can assess them for the Qualifiers in June.

Due to injuries, many players won’t be available for these two friendlies. So, what will be your playing XI for tomorrow’s game?

It’s been quite a difficult season but it was exciting at the same time. I had to make sure that half of the Indian players in the Hero ISL this season were on my list. There were other players who performed well but due to injuries, I did not want to take the risk of calling them here. We have Manvir, Liston and Rahim as strikers in place of Sunil. But the whole team should replace him. I expect these players to take up more responsibility and create more chances as Sunil is not here with us.

Sandesh Jhingan was an integral part of the Blue Tigers set up when India last played Bahrain in 2019. What’s your expectation from him?

He is a great player and getting better every day. His leadership is always there on the pitch. Sandesh has improved his passing game and I think he is a much better player than he was before.