• Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Sports

India still in fight for FIFA world cup qualifiers, says coach

Ranked 158 in the world, Afghanistan shocked 117-ranked India 2-1 as the home team suffered one of its most humiliating defeats in recent years

Igor Stimac

By: Eastern Eye

EMBATTLED Indian football team head coach Igor Stimac said his side can still progress to the third round of the FIFA world cup qualifiers, putting up a brave front despite an embarrassing defeat to Afghanistan last Tuesday (26).

Ranked 158 in the world, Afghanistan shocked 117-ranked India 2-1 as the home team suffered one of its most humiliating defeats in recent years despite talisman Sunil Chhetri’s 94th international goal.

“Of course, I think we can qualify (for third round of World Cup Qualifiers) and I told you before as well we are going to be a different team after a long camp. You can see that half of our players are not able to bring that intensity and I cannot change that in five days, I am sorry,” Stimac said after the match. “I repeat myself again and again and again. I hope you remember all these players were the same players in June-July and Afghanistan is not a different team than Kuwait and Lebanon teams that we had beaten and dominated.”

In his 150th international match, Chhetri found the back of the net from the spot in the 37th minute after Haroon Amiri handled the ball inside the box in the second round of the joint qualifiers for the World Cup and 2027 AFC Asian Cup.

However, the Afghans hit back in the second half with goals from Rahmat Akbari (71’) and Sharif Mukhammad (88’), leaving the packed house at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium heartbroken.

When asked if he would resign, Stimac said he is here to “fulfil a mission” and would be in charge of the team till June.

Stimac last year received a contract extension till June 2026.

He said this is the same Indian team that was consistently winning last year. “The difference is only in the intensity,” he said.

India should not have conceded the penalty through a silly mistake. The Afghan attack was one-dimensional, playing long ball into the penalty area and the Indian defence was “ineffective in checking this predictable approach,” he added.

“We did many things correct today, but something that was very poor was that after being in control for most of the game, there were some points in the game when we give something away. As a team, we are frozen for 5-6 minutes, which is inexplicable,” Stimac said.

“It’s not only about trying to qualify for the third round, it’s also about what we are going to do there, when we get there. We have to do well in June otherwise we will stay where we were in the last eight years, qualifying against Myanmar and Guam,” he added.

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