Indian Football Team head coach Igor Stimac does not want to cry over the past drama that happened when choosing the squad for the Asian Games but wants to focus on the things he has on his hands. India will be leaving for China tonight and then play their first match against China on 19th September.
"I will not go back to everything what was going on, because there is no reason to waste time now and bring headaches back. As I said, time is short. We need to focus on what can be done next two days until the kickoff to do everything possible, you know, which is within our power to open the tournament with a good fight," Stimac told the media present in the virtual press meet.
The head coach is not expecting or demanding any results from the players in the Asian Games 2023. He just wants the players in the squad to play to the best of their abilities. Moreover, he wants everyone to be safe so that they can be available for the World Cup qualifiers.
"I'm not thinking about results, to be honest with you. You know, I don't have any reason whatsoever to request results from the players or insist on results. All I'm gonna ask the players to do the best of their abilities that they are, they are in at the moment and I will try to help them in achieving that," Igor added.
Although Stimac wanted the senior players to be available for the Asian Games 2023, with the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers in mind, he will make sure that everyone in the team will be fit and be available for that tournament.
"What I have in my mind is the World Cup qualifiers. You need to understand that. So, I will need to be, very wise in regards to making decisions, how much to use those senior players, especially after the long travel, and how to approach three games as a package."
The head coach believes that the younger players will benefit from the Asian Games and they will have the opportunity to prove themselves so that they can return to their ISL clubs and turn the spotlight on them.
"I would say this tournament should serve mostly to those players who are not primary on the list. It's a great opportunity, great challenge for them to prove themselves, to deserve, uh, and achieve their dreams in proving that they deserve better opportunity in ISL and in their clubs and to turn the highlights to themselves," Igor Stimac expressed.
While assessing the squad he has got for the Asian Games, Igor Stimac agreed that India is lacking good midfielders and fullbacks. That is why he wanted to have Sandesh Jhingan to intensify the defensive part of the squad.
"Obviously, fullback positions and our central midfield positions are weakened too much because as we look now from what we had. We have only three centrebacks there now, so that's all we got from defenders. So I will probably need to fulfil the missing puzzles of the team with the wingers. Either is it a defensive midfield position wingback position or fullback position, even if it needs some of the wingers might expect to play as a centre-back."
From the start of the season, Igor Stimac was adamant about having at least ten days to prepare for a tournament. However, now the scenario is that the Indian National Football team will not have a single training season ahead of their game against China. Igor believes this is just an injustice to the national football team and he will be available to the media after the Asian Cup to clarify everything.
"These things are following us continuously, you know, as I said before, from requesting more time for preparation, we came to a point where we need to be happy when we get the players just before kick-off, which is quite an injustice to the national team because whatever I request, I'm requesting for India," Igor stated.
With no more than 48 hours to be before the kick-off, Igor is worried about players getting injured during the Asian Games. We have already seen Ashquie Kuruniyan getting injured during the U-23 Asian Qualifiers. The Mohun Bagan Super Giant player is out for the season and will not take part in any of the games this season. Stimac believes that the players from clubs come with 60% of the fitness they need to face teams like Qatar, Australia and others. That is another reason why he always asks for extra days for preparation.
"We have already a problem because of these. which I hate and I know it's a FIFA window and we cannot request more. But just to explain certain things which are happening that I mentioned already that fitness level, which players bring from their clubs and from playing ISL is maybe at the 60 per cent of the fitness level needed to compete against teams like Qatar, South Korea, Australia, Kuwait and others which are, which are a physical side, good sides and you need to reach certain intensity level and fitness level to adjust to the game needed to play well and do well against such sides," Igor told the media.
Igor believes that there are not many differences among the Indian players nowadays. With proper time and training sessions, even I-League players could have been groomed to play the Asian Games. But, in that case, the team would need time to perform well at that level.
"Listen, generally there is no huge difference in quality within Indian players. You know, it's just a question of time. How much time one coach is provided to bring these players to the certain level needed for his football and his philosophy."
"If I knew that certain elements would stop us from going with the best possible team there, then I would rather pick, all I-league players, you and request to train with them for two months and prepare for the Asian game and you wouldn't notice much of a difference there. Because we don't have a huge, huge difference between the quality of players which are playing in ISL and a good part of young, talented players in the I League," Igor added.
Talking about India's opponents in the Asian Games, Igor is not thinking about any team other than China. But, since India will not have any proper training sessions before the China game, his focus is on the matches against Bangladesh and Myanmar.
"I could clearly see China only to be honest (as the toughest opponent) because They are preparing this team for a long time, you know, and only in, uh, since March this year, they played four really tough games against tough opponents and lost three and winning one."
"I'm not thinking about China. To be honest, I'm thinking about Bangladesh and Myanmar. So you do not be surprised if I leave Sandesh and Sunil in the game against China," Igor stated his thoughts on the game against China."