New Delhi, Oct 31 (IANS) Chief coach Igor Stimac has praised the All India Football Federation’s top term development plan, which included setting up the Indian Arrows team and organising the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in the country that played a crucial role in the Indian Under-23 football team coming up with its best performance in the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers.
India drew with Kyrgyz Republic on Saturday night and finished their campaign having bagged four points with one win against Oman (2-1) and a draw, only two points behind group leaders UAE.
Stimac said the Indian Arrows project and hosting the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2017 helped develop a “new generation of players” who went on to register India’s best-ever finish in the AFC U-23 Asian Cup Qualifiers on Saturday.
“This just proves that the project which started years ago in India with Indian Arrows and the FIFA U-17 World Cup were the right steps in developing a new generation of players who will have more confidence on the pitch and not hesitate to face anyone,” Stimac stated after India finished second in Group E.
India, owing to finishing second in the group, still stand a possibility of qualifying to the finals next year.
“We still have hopes to qualify for the finals. The boys absolutely deserve it. Everyone in India sees that we have a bright future ahead,” Stimac was quoted as saying by the AIFF.
Stimac agreed goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh played a key role in India’s success at the AFC U23 Asian Cup.
“Yes, he’s the man of the match because he made some crucial stops in the first half when we gave the Kyrgyz two gifts without a reason, and he was there to keep us in the game. Finally, saving those two penalties in the shootout was something extraordinary.”
Stimac continued, “He’s already been with the senior team for a while. He’s already competed in the AFC Champions League last season and he was magnificent there. He’s a fantastic stop-stopper at the penalty shootouts. We believed he could come up with a few saves there.”