Nepal friendlies good preparation for SAFF Championship: Stimac

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Kathmandu, Sep 1 (IANS) Indian football team head coach Igor Stimac has said ahead of the first ‘friendly’ against Nepal on September 2 that the games here will serve as preparation for the SAFF Championship in the Maldives next month.

“We are happy to be here and happy to be together again. These two International Friendlies (September 2 and 5) will help us prepare for the forthcoming SAFF Championship in the Maldives next month. I just know these games will be good and we need to learn on the pitch,” said Stimac on Wednesday.

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The ground conditions here could be challenging for the players as it has been raining for the last one week, leaving the underfoot conditions at the practice ground heavy.

“I hope that we don’t suffer heavy rains during the matches so that we can play some exciting football,” said Stimac.

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“We have analysed Nepal as an opponent and the kind of progress they made in the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers. They have put on display that they can play quality football and can defend as a team. My colleague (rival coach) has done a good job and there are a lot of young players in the squad,” said Stimac.

Nepal coach Abdullah Almutairi said he has worked a lot on “changing the mentality of his players”.

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“I don’t want to make the people happy; rather I want to make them proud. We have been training for the last two months and there are a lot of youngsters in the squad. Our target is to win the SAFF Championship in the Maldives, and eventually qualify for the AFC Asian Cup China 2023,” he informed. “We don’t care about FIFA rankings. It will not be easy for them (India), as surely it won’t be easy for us.”

India captain Sunil Chhetri said, “I will admit that I have a soft corner for Nepal. But, it ends the moment I step on the pitch. My mom is from Nepal and whatever sporting culture and discipline has been inculcated is all because of my mom,” he said.

“Nepal has always made it very difficult for us on the football pitch, and we are not expecting anything less. Playing Nepal at home and outside Nepal are two different things, and let’s not forget that they are the home team here,” added Chhetri.

The match will kick off on September 2 at 5:15 pm IST and will be telecast live on the Indian football team’s official Facebook page @TheIndianFootballTeam.

–IANS

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