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Former Croatian teammates to face-off as India plays friendly against NEUFC
The Indian National Football team and NorthEast United FC are looking forward to an important ‘friendly’ match against each other at Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on October 9.
The Blue Tigers are in Guwahati preparing for their crucial FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifier against Bangladesh on October 15, to be played in Kolkata. NEUFC is gearing up to play their first match of the Indian Super League (ISL) season on October 21 against Bengaluru FC.
The friendly match begins at 7:30 pm and is open for all.
“It is a chance for my players to prove themselves and earn a place in the team. We just need to decide how many changes we can make during the game. It will be nice to try as many players in the game. I expect them to display the best of their abilities and competitiveness against the NEUFC,” said team India coach Igor Stimac.
Although a friendly, the match is very important for both the teams in their preparation.
While injury was an issue for team India, coach Stimac is not worried about that. “I am glad that Sunil is back. Apart from that, we are not worried. Injuries are part of the game. Our players are capable to replace those who are injured. It is simple,” said the former Croatian centre-back.
Interestingly, Stimac and NEUFC coach Robert Jarni, another Croatian, were teammates when their national side won the Bronze in 1998 FIFA World Cup. This is for the first time both the players will be facing each other as coach.
“Back home, we face each other every day. I see him in market, in bank and everywhere. But I have never faced him in the opposite side as a coach. It will be a great pleasure. He is a great coach and a fantastic player. I hope he will have a great future with NorthEast United,” said Stimac.
It is also a rare occasion for an ISL club to play friendly against the senior national side.
“It is a great opportunity for us to play the Indian national team before we begin our season. I am sure it will be a fantastic match and will help both sides prepare for the upcoming fixtures,” said Jarni.
Team India is morally high especially after the brilliant performance against the much higher-ranked Qatar in Doha in a World Cup qualifier.
And for the John Abraham-owned team, for which Guwahati is the home ground, is also well equipped especially with the joining of former Ghana captain Asamoah Gyan, Argentine forward Maximiliano Barreiro and Dutch centre-back Kai Heerings.
Last year, NEUFC reached the semi-final of the ISL.