I'm proud that India play with a different mindset now: Igor Stimac

By Jagannath Chatterjee

New Delhi, May 21 (IANS): India football team's head coach Igor Stimac, who was part of the famous Croatian team of the 1998 World Cup, has just completed his four-year stint with the Blue Tigers.

The former centre back feels that after four years of hard work, he can proudly say that the team now plays the game with a different mindset.

Speaking exclusively with IANS, Stimac talked about a range of issues, like what once Sunil Chhetri says farewell to the national team.

"We have a great number of young players whom we introduced in the past four years with significant international experience," Stimac told IANS.

"I have just completed four years with the Blue Tigers. The journey has been difficult at times, but overall, it has been a wonderful trip. The task that I accepted after taking over was challenging, because the big changes in football require a lot of time. Today, I can proudly say that we play with a different mindset. We also have a great number of young players whom we introduced in the past four years," Stimac told IANS

He added, "There were also some interesting moments for me as the head coach of the national team, such as the Asian Cup qualifiers in Kolkata and the recent Hero tri-nation international tournament in Manipur, where we received amazing support and paid back to our supporters by playing quality football."

While Stimac does not buy the idea that the national team is playing international friendlies with only similar or lower-ranked teams, he does feel that it is difficult to arrange games with quality sides.

"I cannot agree with such statements. We played friendlies against many better-ranked national teams like Oman, Belarus, Bahrain, UAE, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan and Vietnam. We always intend to play against better teams, but it's very difficult to arrange games with them because they also intend to improve by playing against better teams," Stimac told IANS.

The former centre back also admitted that he doesn't think too much about who will leave the national team first -- his captain Sunil Chhetri or himself.

"I have to be honest... I don't think much about it because as far as I am concerned, I will leave before he says farewell to the national team. But we have proved several times that with team effort, we can succeed and get results even when our dear captain is not available.

"We defeated Thailand in the Kings Cup on their turf without him, and held Qatar away in a fantastic game during the 2022 World Cup qualifiers. We also held Oman 1:1 without Sunil. Manvir, Rahim and Ishan are there waiting for their chances. Vikram and Siva are very close to the national team, so we shouldn't worry too much," Stimac told IANS.

As far as the Asian Cup in January 2024 is concerned, the Blue Tigers' head coach feels that the goal is to give a hard time to the opponents and make the country proud.

"All I am asking from my players is to give their best, so once the final whistle is blown, they can feel that they gave everything that they could," Stimac concluded.



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Title: I'm proud that India play with a different mindset now: Igor Stimac

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