Over the years every fan of India football has had just one thing on their minds – qualification for the World Cup. With the India football team drawing 1-1 against Afghanistan on the 15th of June, the dreams of all fans have received a horrific response.
By finishing third in the group in the World Cup Qualifiers, India football team has managed to directly find a place in the 2023 Asian Cup. Under coach Igor Stimac, the Blue Tigers have managed to end their World Cup Qualification campaign with four draws, three losses, and just one win. Scoring just six goals and conceding seven.
Igor Stimac was appointed head coach in May 2019, on a two-year deal, expiring last month. The All India Football Federation has, however, now extended this till September 2021.
So far, the highlight of his managerial career with India football team has been the goalless draw against the reigning Asian Champions Qatar in 2019. This was a spirited performance, and the credit went to the coach.
So far, the Croatian international has given debuts to as many as twenty young Indians, something he has been applauded for. However, under his mentorship, India football team has won just two matches! With their first win coming against Thailand in the King’s Cup where Anirudha Thapa’s strike sealed the victory, and the second one coming in a win over Bangladesh, with captain Sunil Chettri scoring a brace, we see hope.
Stimac is pleased with the performance of the Blue Tigers in the India football match against opponents in the World Cup Qualifiers. However, he has taken into consideration the fans. Regarding the failure to qualify, he has stated that India football is still a long way from reaching that level.
Stimac has expressed that he feels the desperation of the fans but has explained that the ISL (Indian Super League) has not yet reached that level of expertise in his opinion. The India football team is still in the process of being built up, and this entire process might take a while.
In his defense, he believes that playing higher-ranked teams in the friendlies will allow the players to “face real difficulties”. As opposed to the ISL, that does not put enough pressure on the players to bring out top-rated products. He believes that with no relegation, there is no real pressure on the teams on the lower end, and this makes it far different from playing top-flight football.
The former Croatian coach has expressed that the biggest setback to his goals with the India football team has been the COVID-19 pandemic and the practice restrictions that it brought since the beginning of 2020. However, it is also his opinion that the India football scene is still full of potential, at it will only be a matter of time before some ‘real’ progress is seen.