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India's Igor Stimac: Need to do much more domestically to qualify for World Cup

11:51 BST 19/10/2021
Igor Stimac India
The Croatian coach clearly mentioned that he needs ample time to prepare the team for the 2023 Asian Cup third round qualifiers...

India coach Igor Stimac is hoping to have a longer domestic season in India soon in order to further develop the technical and physical aspects of the Indian players and make progress towards the long-term goal of qualifying for the World Cup. 

The Croatian coach understands that the process of starting a longer Indian Super League (ISL) got deferred due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic but he hopes that it gets resolved soon.

What did Igor Stimac say?

"With the pandemic going on, we cannot count on a season that will go on for eight-nine months. That is the biggest problem. Our last ISL season was supposed to start in August and end in May. That would have been fantastic. Players coming in national camps during the off-season is not great at all. We have to work on their fitness and cannot focus on the tactical part. Hope this changes soon and we can have a normal season like other countries," said the India coach.

Citing the example of China's investment in their domestic football, the Croatian suggested that if India wants to play in the World Cup one day, they have to go through a prolonged process.

"We have to have our internal competition at the same level as the best Asian countries. The same quality of academies and the same amount of investments. China are investing billion dollars in football, they have five million kids in structured academies, thousands and thousands of foreign coaches in those academies and still, it is not enough. They are trying to qualify for the world cup and don't think it will happen. If we are dreaming to qualify for the world cup it is a massive process and other countries are doing much more than us in this regard in every aspect. But we must be supportive of the process," opined Stimac.

Long-term process

The former Croatia international defender spoke about the process and the philosophy of playing possession-based football he has been able to imbibe in the Indian team since taking charge in May 2019.

"Two and half years ago I took up this job because of the technical committee which are formed by ex-players. They understand what and how long it takes to build a more technical team. The process that is involved and the suffering that we must go through. We started restructuring the team from the very first day as we opted for more technical and ball possession football. The only result that we made mistake in was the result against Bangladesh in Salt Lake (1-1 draw). We could not play all the home matches in the WCQ and still, we qualified for the third round. 

"We have ensured that the footballers have increased their football knowledge about nutrition, individual training, and the importance of rest. We have some very important players on the pitch and then we have players who can fill in. In every position, we have at least three players. Therefore we are not afraid of losing anyone.  We have to take one step forward and play good football in the third round and ensure qualification for the Asian Cup," said Stimac.

Stimac stressed on the fact that he needs enough time to prepare the team for the 2023 Asian Cup third round qualifiers and for that he would need cooperation from the clubs so that players are released in time.

"We don't know yet who will be playing. We need to prepare for the third round. We need to sit with stakeholders and find out how much time the national team will get. If we get time to prepare then he playing and results will be good. Otherwise, it will be a gamble. We have to make sure that all the players are released from the club for these games," said the India boss.