Image Courtesy: AIFF Website

The Indian men’s national football team arrived in Kolkata to commence their preparations for the upcoming AFC Asian Cup Final Round Qualifiers in June.

India have been placed in Group D of the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers, alongside the likes of Hong Kong, Afghanistan, and Cambodia, with all the fixtures to be held at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata. Head coach Igor Stimac admitted that his side will start as favourites to make the AFC Asian Cup finals.

“We are the favourites from our group, and we’re not hiding from that,” expressed Stimac in an official press conference ahead of their friendlies. “We want to go to this group and qualify for the Asian Cup. I see India going to the final stages.”  

“What I am interested in is the final result, that we should qualify. I don’t mind how many goals we score, or what the results were, as long as we qualify. Of course, if we score a lot, that will be good, but the main aim is to qualify.”

The Croatian though believes that his team will have to prove their superiority on the pitch and ean their right to make the cut to the continental showpiece.

“We are following all our opponents and we will find out what the latest changes in their teams are. Right now, we are preparing, but whatever is the case, we need to give everything in the 90 minutes on the pitch,” he said.

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After recent defeats against Bahrain and Belarus, Stimac has full faith in the capabilities of his team and is confident of a strong show.

“We’re not under pressure, because we know what to do. Yes, there are certain expectations on our team, but I’m quite confident that we can do it,” he said. “We have enough quality in the team to make sure that we qualify.”   

The Blue Tigers were camping in Bellary, Karnataka from April 23, before shifting base to Kolkata, where they will continue their camp. The 54-year-old believes that this extra time in the camp will help his side prepare for the upcoming challenges.

“The daily work is certainly helping the team. The players get better at accepting things that we are trying to do, they get better after every training session,” Stimac stated.

“It’s far better than getting them for just 1-2 days before a match. This is giving me as a coach the opportunity to prepare well for the games,” he added.

India will face Cambodia in the first match of the qualifiers in Kolkata on June 8 before taking on Afghanistan on June 11 and Hong Kong on June 14.