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Intercontinental Cup 2019: Igor Stimac - We could have finished the game in the first half

03:39 IST 08/07/2019
Igor Stimac India
The India coach said he was aware of the quality Tajikistan possessed going into the tie...

The Indian national team couldn't hold on to a two-goal lead at half-time to go down 4-2 against Tajikistan in the opener of the 2019 Intercontinental Cup on Sunday.

India coach, Igor Stimac, admitted that it was all down the the game plan that was adopted for the game knowing well the quality of the Persion Lions .

"Our plan was going too well and I was afraid of how well everything was going. The players were well concentrated and we had prepared well. We knew their most dangerous players are in the middle, the three midfielders who have great passes and create spaces. It was really important that we followed those move an stop crosses. It was brilliant in the first half, except for one mistake from Narender (Gahlot), but the rest was fantastic. With a third goal, we could have finished the game in the first half," he said.

"I told them at half time that this is a dangerous game because they (Tajikistan) are in competition form and we are not. In the last 12 days they played three competitive games," he added.

The Croat took special notice of debutant Narender Gahlot's performance alongside Adil Khan in a relatively untested defensive pairing given that Sandesh Jhingan and Anas Edathodika had injury concerns.

"After a few mistakes, it was normal that such a young player (Gahlot) would lose a bit of ground. But I need to back him up because we don't have great defenders yet in this country. I need to use his abilities - he has fantastic physical abilities. His endurance level is phenomenal like the top European players. He has good speed and his resistance is fantastic. If we teach him how to compete and how to concentrate for 95 minutes, we will have a great defender. But we need to suffer until then, that's it," he continued.

"We had so many problems defensively - with Sandesh and Anas not ready yet, I did not want to push any of them because the Olympic Qualifiers are much more important for us and I tried to save them."

The second half exposed the frailties of lack of concerntration in the Indian side as Stimac explained, "We could not find much concentration in the second half to keep going on in the same way and that was the biggest problem. The main problem in Asian football is a lack of concentration. Especially in the second half, the gaps between the lines became obvious and every body lost his position too easily. You could see the the game changed after individual mistakes - not after team and collective mistakes."

Having picked a young squad, the former Croatia coach believes that there is scope for improvement. "We have many young players who are here for the first time. We had many 18-20 year olds, but it's not an excuse - their (Tajikistan) average age today was 22 and a half. We need to be worried about that. This Tajikistan team has beaten us with their U-23 side and they beat us well. We must think now what we did wrong in the younger ages and what we must improve and how we teach the players how to grow up," he urged.

India are next to take on DPR Korea on Saturday, July 13, before facing Syria on July 16 and Stimac looks forward to extracting the positives.

"We need to take the positives from the first half and analyse the mistakes we made. We need to become a competitive team that can play 95 minutes. We are becoming a good passing side that can attack and combine well. I told the players that football is like this, everything can change in three days. So we need to forget about this," he concluded.