Igor Stimac has expressed his satisfaction at India’s preparations for the upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying clash against Oman which gets underway at Guwahati on Thursday.
The clash opens India’s campaign in Round Two of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) qualifying zone and Stimac believes that his men are ready for the fight.
“It is an important game for India. Our preparations were really good. We played two competitions before. The players are improving in all aspect,” the Croatian said on the eve of the Oman clash.
“We are very clear about the starting XI of tomorrow's (Thursday) game. The rest of the players are also ready. Each one of the players who played before is crucial.”
India’s most recent assignment came in the four-nation Intercontinental Cup at Ahmedabad where they suffered defeats against Tajikistan and DPR Korea before going on to hold Syria to a draw. Despite the unflattering results, Stimac feels that the tournament experience will hold India in great stead in the upcoming qualifiers.
“We conceded a few silly goals last time. But we also played against a few better opponents,” the former Croatia head coach said.
“We showed we can play organised football against good teams. Tomorrow also we have to play a good strong organised game against a strong side,” he added.
India will have to make do without the services of midfield dynamo Amarjit Singh Kiyam with the youngster ruled out of the Oman and Qatar clashes due to a broken hand. The former India U17 skipper had put in some promising displays since being handed his senior debut by Stimac and the India coach has lamented the midfielder’s absence for Friday.
“Maybe you will see tears in my eyes. That's how important Amarjit is,” Stimac stated.
“Young players are very important. We need to believe in Indian football. We have something to build upon. We have Anirudh Thapa, Sahal Abdul Samad, Amarjit and Narender Gahlot. We have to make sure we are secured for the future.
“I know we conceded some goals but I want you to feel proud of how we play football. I have players with good technical abilities. He (Amarjit) deserves to start the game tomorrow. I hope he joins us very soon.”
Stimac has emphasised on the need to change the team’s playing style since taking over the role vacated by Stephen Constantine but the Croatian believes India will need to be more pragmatic in their approach against both Oman and Qatar.
“I don't want to implement a Croatian style here. That doesn't work,” he said.
“I want to build Indian players using the style from here. We are using a different style of play. We cannot play possession football against Qatar. We have to be clever.
“I was never afraid of any team. We respect everyone but we give our best. That's why Croatians are successful. That is what I am bringing here. No one is unbeatable. You have to believe in yourself.”
Two teams from Group E can proceed to the third round of qualifying and Stimac has tagged Qatar and Oman as the favourites to take those spots.
“In football, you need to grow gradually, step by step. We are trying to do that only,” Stimac explained.
“Oman and Qatar are of course realistically favourites. Our target is to participate in the AFC Asian Cup regularly. If the chance comes to qualify to next round, we will take it.
“If we can work on the structure it will be a great chance for India to be successful in international football.“