India's football coach Igor Stimac had to change his squad list seven times. Then, he first announced it for the Hangzhou Asian Games 2023, with a lack of available players. Asian Games is being played outside FIFA's international window so clubs are uncomfortable releasing players. Afghanistan and Syria pulled out before the Games even started. Hong Kong and Uzbekistan both qualified for the next round without kicking playing a single match from the Group C.
"Twenty-one out of 22 players from my initial list are not here today," Stimac said after they lost 5-1 to China to start their Asian Games 2023 campaign. The Blue Tigers then defeated Bangladesh 1-0 in their next fixture. India kept alive their hopes of qualifying for the knockouts despite the lack of a huge number of players.
"This is my seventh list that has been changed and prepared to bring a team over here," said Stimac. "I understand perfectly well how difficult it is because (Indian) clubs are not under pressure to release their players. But I'm happy because I see that some teams pulled out at the last minute as they couldn't get enough players, like Afghanistan, like Syria and it's a big problem for the whole tournament now," he further added.
Indian defender Sandesh Jhingan added, "We still haven't trained on the pitch yet (as a whole team) and we have played two games." That is in fact a huge problem right now for the team. They were playing quite brilliantly in the first game against the hosts. They also were level after the first half. But as long as the game went, the players looked like they were tired and China just used that opportunity. "Once we are all together with a full squad we're going to make problems to anyone in Asia. Believe me," Igor Stimac concluded.