Indian national team head coach Igor Stimac aims to maintain their perfect record in the SAFF Championship 2023 as they prepare to face Kuwait in a decisive Group A match at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium, in Bengaluru, on Tuesday.

Both India and Kuwait have secured their places in the semi-finals by winning their first two group matches convincingly. However, despite having the same number of points, the Blue Tigers are currently placed second in the group compared to Kuwait. They are determined to secure another victory and top the group, thus avoiding Lebanon, who have the strongest chance of topping Group B, in the semi-finals.

Stimac emphasised the significance of the upcoming match and highlights their primary objective of maintaining a clean sheet against Kuwait.

“Result-wise, there's not much in it apart from getting a bit easier opponents in the semi-final. We'll approach this game as any other game and try to win it. Keeping a clean sheet is always our first goal,” Stimac said during the pre-match press conference on Monday.

“If it's a draw, so be it. We'll still go out to ensure we progress from the semi-finals. We need to look at the tournament as a whole. If it's possible to win every game, it's even better. If not, the final aim is always to win the title," he added.

India continued their rotation policy and made as many as eight changes against Nepal. The team appeared slightly off-colour in the opening half but staged a strong comeback in the second half, resulting in a 2-0 victory against the Gorkhalis. India assistant coach Mahesh Gawli took charge of the team in Stimac's absence, who was serving his one-match suspension.

The Croatian coach praised his assistant for successfully implementing in-game changes and getting the job done in the previous match.

“My staff executed the job nearly perfectly (against Nepal), I would say. We had a clear plan of what to do and how to execute it, but for some reason, things didn't go as planned in the first 45 minutes. However, my staff did brilliantly. Everything was as it should be, including the changes and the team talks in the dressing room. I'm very confident about Mahesh Gawli and his future, and this is something I tell everybody at the AIFF,” stated Stimac.

Winger Naorem Mahesh Singh showcased his brilliant skills in the last game against Nepal, scoring his first international goal and also assisting Sunil Chhetri for the opening goal. Stimac also expressed his admiration for Mahesh, who has made remarkable progress in the national team since his debut against Myanmar in the Hero Tri-Nation tournament in March 2023.

“Mahesh (Singh) is obviously one of the biggest stars emerging in Indian football. I just hope he builds some muscle mass in the next few months because he will need it. Now that everyone knows about him, they will be more cautious, and he will face tougher and tougher opponents (in the coming days). So he can't relax. He is a brilliant and talented young man with great potential. Mahesh brings us an extra level of quality, which is exactly what we have been looking for,” said Stimac.

The Blue Tigers have struggled in their previous encounters against Kuwait. In their three previous encounters, Kuwait emerged victorious twice and both times by a substantial margin.

Kuwait have been in incredible form lately, winning seven out of their last eight matches. Their victories include matches against the United Arab Emirates, Tajikistan, the Philippines, and Zambia.

Stimac believes that Kuwait's current ranking doesn't reflect its true quality, as they are a very strong and talented side

"I think Kuwait's ranking is underestimated. They've had phenomenal performances in the last six months against strong Asian sides. They are a very quality team," the Croatian opined.