Igor Stimac | Image Courtesy: AIFF

Even though India lost to UAE 0-6 in a friendly recently, head coach Igor Stimac feels it will not dent the confidence of the team. The optimistic Croatian said that their long term goal is to qualify for the AFC Cup 2023 and create a team that will take a more serious part in the next World Cup qualifiers 2026.

“Self-confidence can only be shaken by those who do not believe in what we do. The best ones will learn lessons from these unpleasant results, and keep going forward together. They will invest more time in their work, improve their muscle strength and knowledge in technical-tactical points. At the beginning of our work we had clearly stated our goals – to qualify for the AFC Cup 2023 and create a team that will take a more serious part in the next WCQ 2026,” Stimac was quoted as saying by All India Football Federation’s website.

Prior to their loss to the UAE, the Blue Tigers played a 1-1 draw against Oman in Dubai. And during that match as many as 10 Indian players made their debut for the senior national side.

“Everyone needs to understand the difference between friendly games and qualifiers. We made it clear that we will insist on much stronger opponents in friendlies to help our players gain the necessary experience. Friendly games are always to be used as a part of development and results are less important there.  As for the results of the World Cup qualifiers, I must remind you of the truth – and the numbers speak for themselves,” he added.

“The sole reason we played these games against Oman and UAE was to check how much our guys are able to match strong teams at the moment. And it wouldn’t be fair if we hadn’t given everyone a chance in their positions to check them out and get the answers we are looking for. It was easier against Oman because they also went out of the competitive rhythm, but it was entirely different against UAE wherein the competitive rhythm was at the maximum – their championship is in full swing”.

The 53-year old coach also believes that young Indian players needed to be given some time.

“We have a talented youth set-up that needs to be given time, and peace at work. We believe in them – they are the best we have, and all together we are obliged to give them the opportunity to mature for greater achievements. Defeats are part of that path. They are painful but it serves to teach and mature them,” he added.

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