What next India? Stimac and Blue Tigers go home with tails between their legs

January 25 – India’s manager Igor Stimac, has had a difficult and disappointing Asian Cup. India finished up with a poorer record than in 2019 with Stimac leading them to three consecutive defeats.

Stimac blames a difference in quality between his team and the opposition, and that his players coming in from the bench were ineffective, not good enough to have an impact on the game.

The Blue Tigers bowed out of the competition conceding a 76th-minute strike by Omar Khribin in a 1-0 loss to Hector Cuper’s Syrian side.

India were bottom of group B without a single goal and point to their name. It was a poor return for a giant nation that expects more even if football is not the country’s leading sport.

Before the tournament, Stimac pre-empted the potential of bad results and public criticism by arguing that India should focus on reaching the third round of World Cup qualifying.

Key players Anwar Ali, Jeakson Singh and Sahal Abdul Samad all got injured on the eve of the finals. But Stimac is running out of excuses for India’s underwhelming performances.

“We had a clear plan to take the game into 60 minutes with the clean sheet and to bring on fresh legs, which I was hoping would give us something and get an impact on this team in the last 30 minutes,” said Stimac.

“That, obviously didn’t happen. I think Udanta was the only one who came on as a substitute who had few things to offer. Others didn’t have any impact whatsoever. That’s what killed us today.’

In the first half against Australia, India impressed before collapsing in a 2-0 loss.

Uzbekistan cruised past the Indians with three goals in the first half and the narrow Syria defeat made this India’s second-worst performance in the Asian Cup. During their brief stay in Qatar, India had just five shots on target. In 2011, the Blue Tigers finished bottom of their group, conceding 13 goals.

“The quality between Syrian and Indian players was the difference. Because the No. 7 [Khrbin] who came on the pitch (from the bench), his market value is double the market value of my 11 players,” Stimac said.

“On the market, he is worth 4.5 million (euros) and the starting 11 of India are worth 2.5 million (euros). That’s what I mean when we speak about the difference in execution in the final third.”

On social media, Stimac posted: “The boys didn’t perform up to the level I know they are capable of, but I know they gave it their all and I’m proud of them. We need to play at a higher level consistently to be more comfortable.”

The Croatian did take some positives from the tournament for India, who will return to action with a doubleheader in the World Cup qualifiers against Afghanistan.

“For me, satisfaction comes from watching my team create chances against sides like Australia. Uzbekistan and Syria. And that’s what we need to be happy about,” he said.

Ultimately, it was telling that India relied on 39-year-old striker Sunil Chettri at these finals. He has carried the burden for the Blue Tiger sfor almost two decades, but once he retires, Stimac and India will be left to ponder how much progress, if any, they have made.

Contact the writer of this story at moc.l1713307790labto1713307790ofdlr1713307790owedi1713307790sni@i1713307790tnuk.1713307790ardni1713307790mas1713307790

 


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