The Indian men's senior national team head coach, Igor Stimac, exuded confidence as his team prepares to begin their Hero Intercontinental Cup 2023 campaign against Mongolia at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Friday.

The Blue Tigers showcased their dominance in the inaugural edition of the Hero Intercontinental Cup in 2018, defeating Kenya 2-0 in the final to lift the trophy. However, they failed to replicate the same success in the subsequent edition of the tournament in 2019.

Nevertheless, this year, they have undergone an extended training camp and are determined to lift the Hero Intercontinental Cup for the second time.

The head coach expressed the same belief, highlighting his determination to go all the way and reclaim the coveted trophy.

"We're expecting to win the tournament, and that's why we're here. We'll do everything possible to make that happen," Stimac said during the pre-match press conference.

The Blue Tigers have set their sights on the upcoming AFC Asian Cup in Qatar, which is just seven months away. To prepare themselves adequately for the continental championship, the Indian team will participate in several tournaments throughout the remainder of this year.

Stimac feels that his side must seize every moment and every game, regardless of the strength of the opposition, as each one will be crucial in their preparations.

“Although our opponents (in the Hero Intercontinental Cup) are not as tough as the teams we'll face in the Asian Cup, they're still good and competitive,” he said.

India will be taking on Mongolia for the first time in history. Stimac says they have conducted a thorough analysis of their East Asian opponent, and they don't want to underestimate them, despite their poor FIFA ranking of 183.

“Mongolia are a very tough and compact side, plays aggressive football, especially in the first 25-30 minutes. They employ a high press and maintain a strong midfield presence, denying opponents time and space on the ball. Therefore, we need to be wise in our approach. It is important for us to be physical and play with a vertical style.” Stimac stated.

“Even though they may find it difficult to adapt to the warm weather here, their players are arriving in competitive form as the Mongolian league is going on at the moment,” he added.

The Indian national side had an extensive camp this time, which started on May 15 in Bhubaneswar. This has provided the Croatian coach with plenty of time to assess his team. The Blue Tigers could potentially play nine games in 25 days, with the SAFF Championship also commencing on June 21 in Bengaluru.

Stimac believes that this extended camp will help them stay fit and play competitive football in both tournaments. He also urges the fans to support the team, as it will motivate the players against higher-ranked opponents.

"Each game will be a challenge for us. We've had enough time for preparation. We need to be physically ready for these games and take everything into our hands. Our players are here to prove that they deserve their place in the National Team," said Stimac.

"Playing at home will be a big advantage for us. I hope to see a large number of supporters cheering for us. We saw in Manipur that when we're surrounded by passionate fans who shower us with love, they can help us beat better-ranked teams," the Croatian added.

Indian captain Sunil Chhetri accompanied Stimac in the pre-match press conference. He has been an influential figure for the Blue Tigers in previous editions of the Hero Continental Cup, scoring 11 out of India’s 16 goals in the competition.

The 38-year-old is eager to step onto the field and represent the national team in front of the fans in Bhubaneswar for the first time.

“Me and the boys are very excited. It's strange that we've never played in Bhubaneswar or anywhere in Odisha before in my career, so we're really happy to be here. Everything from our hospitality to training pitches has been top-notch, and we've made good use of the three weeks here. Hopefully, we don't have just three games here but four (including the final)," said the captain.