India suffered a disappointing reverse in their 2022 World Cup qualifying round two opener against Oman on Thursday. After being in the lead for 82 minutes, the Blue Tigers capitulated and conceded two goals to end up on the losing side.
The Croatian believes that India's runs were not as effective as that of Oman and they were made to pay for this in the second half. He opined that effectiveness comes with experience and Oman were the more experienced side in the contest.
“Many people mentioned fitness (was the problem). It’s easy to find that with numbers, runs and distances, the maximum speed etc, we were very good. But the effectiveness of the runs is what matters. Effectiveness is produced by experience. That was what happened against Oman - they were the more experienced team. They knew exactly when and how to run. In the last 30 minutes, we were putting too many sprints and wasting a lot of energy and it cost us," he said.
The Croatian expressed his thoughts on how India still have a long way to go before standing shoulder-to-shoulder against the giants. He did admit that the preparation is in the right direction but maintained that progress will take time.
"It is still early days for me. We spent maybe 30 days working and practising. Rest of our work was to participate in tournaments like Kings Cup in Thailand and the Intercontinental Cup so we didn’t have much for working together compared to Qatar. They have been together, preparing and developing since the last eight years. They have been putting so much investment through science, which is very important in football these days. So credit to them.
"We have just started restructuring our team and working on the grassroots programs. It will take time. As a coach, I want to say I am very happy about my staff and the players. It was not easy to change the style of play.
"India used to play a different style of football and now we are focusing on more passing and technical points of the game and we were fantastic against Oman. We had better possession of the ball, created chances and dominated the first half. Still, experience is missing but I am confident we can do well.
The coach also wants to see more of Indian strikers get regular game time at the club level.
"We do have some young quality strikers but it will take time for them. As a coach, I hope they play more and more for their respective clubs so that they get to know the game otherwise nothing will work," he explained.
The 52-year-old also spoke about how India are not in the same bracket as Qatar or Oman currently and must focus on winning all the games against Bangladesh and Afghanistan before they attempt to surprise Oman in the reverse fixture.
“We are working on stabilising our game, developing more young players so they can become players with more experience. We will try to get the chance to go to the final stage of the Asian Cup through these couple of years. And if there is a chance in the qualifiers, we will try to surprise Oman.
"If everything goes well in our games against Afghanistan and Bangladesh and then we have another chance to play against Oman. We will try to surprise them in their home ground. We know that Qatar and Oman are in a different league from all of us in the group. We need to concentrate on Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Oman if we prove ourselves,” he concluded.