‘We can only improve by playing against top teams’ – India’s Igor Stimac on friendlies against Oman, UAE

‘We can only improve by playing against top teams’ – India’s Igor Stimac on friendlies against Oman, UAE

Igor Stimac thanked Abhishek Yadav and AIFF secretary Kushal Das for their help in arranging friendly matches against Oman and UAE in short notice…

The Indian national team is set to take on Oman and United Arab Emirates in two friendly matches on March 25 and 28 respectively in Dubai.

Head coach Igor Stimac, while speaking to the AIFF TV, reiterated the need to play against stronger opposition to develop as a team and also spoke about why Oman and UAE were chosen as India’s opponent for the friendly matches.

What did Stimac say?

“From the very beginning, I have said that we will not look to play against easy opponents in friendly games. My philosophy is we can only improve by playing against better sides. So immediately when we found out that the qualifiers will be postponed to June, within 24 hours with the help of Abhishek Yadav and Kushal Das we confirmed two friendly games against Oman and UAE. This is a great chance and there is nothing to fear about. We will play our game and try to do what we do on the training pitch, play with freedom, try to make transitions and try to handle the possession and enjoy our football. That is all that I ask from our players,” said the Croatian coach.

The India coach also spoke about their opposition Oman who underwent a managerial change. When India last met Oman in the World Cup 2022 qualifiers in Guwahati, Erwin Koeman was in charge of the national side but Croatian coach Branko Ivankovic has replaced Koeman as the head coach. 

Stimac spoke highly about his compatriot and also mentioned that Ivankovic had heaped praise on India. He is expecting an exciting contest between India and Oman in the friendly.

“It is not a revenge match,” opined, Stimac. “They have changed the manager and now one of my dear friends Branko Ivankovic, one of the most successful Croatian coaches, is in charge now. He is really impressed with Indian football as he analysed our game against Oman. He was really impressed with what he saw. He told me that we have a great bunch of young players with some good experienced players. We are compact and difficult to beat.

“But he also mentioned that he changed a few things on the Oman side. They are working very hard and are really motivated for this game. So let’s see what will happen. He is a great coach he has won the Iran league thrice with Persepolis. He guided the Iranian national side to the World Cup in 2006. He also had great success in Croatia with Dinamo Zagreb.”

Advice for youngsters

The head coach has picked a bunch of new young faces for the national side this time and his only advice for the new players is to play their natural game without fear. 

“When we are talking about the structure of one team your back-four has to be quite experienced. Those midfield players need to have aggression, speed and charisma. Our players have improved a lot in this segment. We have six or seven youngsters who can fight, chase and pass the ball which is very important and without any fear. They have proved it in the ISL and now they have to prove it at the international level. I will give them the chance to do so. I will explain to them that there is no reason for fear at the international level. They need to be themselves and prove to the world that they can play against the best,” said the India coach.


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