New Delhi, March 24 (IANS) The Indian men football team’s ultimate target remains to qualify for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup the team management is trying to provide as much time as possible for players to get ready for the remaining qualification matches, said head coach Igor Stimac.
India play Oman on Thursday and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on March 29 before they start resuming their campaign in the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier, which also doubles up as qualifiers for the Asian Cup. While India are out of contention for the World Cup, they remain in the race to make it to Asian Cup which will be played in China.
“Our target from the beginning has been to qualify for the Asian Cup. We have three games left in this stage of the Qualifiers. We are trying to provide enough time for the players to put in quality work before those games,” said Stimac.
Stimac said that there is continuous competition within the squad for places. “When I became the national team coach, I even mentioned to Sunil (Chhetri) that he also needs to fight for his position. This fight goes on forever. Without this continuous fight, there is no success,” said Stimac.
“I cannot rely on the past. I can select the squad based on past results, but those players need to work hard. We closely monitor them, and then discuss which players fit into the starting XI,” he added.
Stimac will be up against a familiar counterpart when India play Oman — his compatriot from Croatia, Branko Ivankovic will be in charge of the Oman dugout.
“My good friend Branko is with Oman now. He is a great coach. He has already coached top teams like Iran in the World Cup, and has won important trophies in his career. We both know each other well. We have seen Oman play against Jordan (on March 20), and we are confident. They are a patient but a physical side, and do not take a lot of risks. We need to find a way to do well against their style of play,” said Stimac.