A day prior to the kickoff to India’s campaign in the two international friendlies against Bahrain and Belarus, Indian National Team head coach Igor Stimac believes that the team will perform bravely in the match against Bahrain on Wednesday, March 23, 2022. The match will kick off at 9:30 PM IST. After that the Blue Tigers are scheduled to play Belarus on March 26, before returning back to India.
Below are the excerpts of Indian national team head coach Igor Stimac.
Head Coach Igor Stimac has added seven new faces ahead of the friendlies. They are Prabhsukhan Gill, Hormipam Ruivah, Anwar Ali, Roshan Singh, VP Suhair, Danish Farooq, and Aniket Yadav. Igor has kept their inclusion in mind while selecting the team.
“I want to give these boys the opportunity to play against good opponents and I expect them to carry a brave attitude tomorrow once they are on the pitch. I will try to put my best starting eleven with some new faces and want to see how they do against higher-ranked teams and later can assess them for the Qualifiers in June.”
Stimac spoke about his team selection for the International friendlies.
“It’s been quite a difficult season but it was exciting at the same time. I had to make sure that half of the Indian players in the ISL this season were on my list. There were other players who performed well but due to injuries, I did not want to take the risk of calling them here.”
Sunil Chhetri has been ruled out of the two friendlies due to an injury, but Coach Stimac thinks it is the best time for the younger ones to prove themselves.
“We have Manvir, Liston, and Rahim as strikers in place of Sunil. But the whole team should replace him. I expect these players to take up more responsibility and create more chances as Sunil is not here with us.”
Stimac spoke about India’s opponents for the International friendlies, Bahrain and Belarus.
“We are playing Bahrain and Belarus, and they are better-ranked sides than us. But whatever the rankings are, you need to do it on the pitch. Bahrain will show us where we stand. We will give chances to some young players who have played well in the ISL this season to see how much we can use them for the qualifiers in June.”
“The two International Friendlies are part of our preparations for the AFC Asian Cup 3rd round qualifiers, and we need to show some resilience and creativity. The matches should enable our players to mature and gain more experience against stronger sides. But for all of them, it’s the start of the competition to gain that coveted place in the starting line-up for the June qualifiers.”
Stimac spoke about Sandesh Jhinghan and feels he has improved a lot.
“He is a great player and getting better every day. His leadership is always there on the pitch. Sandesh has improved his passing game and I think he is a much better player than he was before.”
Below are the excerpts of the Indian national team defender and vice-captain Sandesh Jhinghan.
Jhinghan expressed his feeling of being called up to the national team after a long time. Sandesh was last called up in June 2021 for the World Cup qualifiers. He was unavailable for selection in India’s 2021 SAFF Championship triumph in the Maldives due to his club commitments in Croatia.
“For any sportsperson, it’s the greatest honour to represent the country. The national team call-up acts as a motivation for me and I always take every call-up as I did my first one. I think it’s a good thing we are playing these important games. It will be a learning factor for everyone in the team as Bahrain and Belarus are both very good opponents.”
Sandesh praised the All India Football Federation for their efforts in organizing International friendlies against strong opponents like Bahrain and Belarus despite the difficult circumstances.
“These games will give us a chance to get the system working. We did not have many games last season due to COVID and I am thankful to the Bahrain Federation for arranging these games in tough times.”
Sandesh was an integral part of the Blue Tigers setup when India last played Bahrain in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. Reliving the memories he spoke about it.
“I think the last game against Bahrain was a heart-breaking one for every Indian, but that’s football. For me, I should have done more that day. But now that we are facing them again, we will do our best and get better for sure.”
Sandesh spoke about the young players in the national team. He spoke on how he guides them by being a good role model and someone they can always look up for any problems.
“All the youngsters those who are coming through, are so well headed, it makes my job easier. Whatever I have learned on my journey, I try to pass it to them, they are in the right space. I always try to be a good example and a good friend. I try to help them with my words. Words can make a lot of difference.”
Below are the excerpts of goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu.
Gurpreet spoke about the two friendly matches. He feels it’s a great opportunity for the team to know the weaknesses ahead of the Asian Cup qualifiers in June.
“This is a great opportunity against good teams. We are not in any position to take things lightly in the June qualifiers be it Cambodia, Afghanistan, or Hong Kong.”
Gurpreet spoke on the non-availability of talismanic striker Sunil Chhetri.
“We need to take it as a challenge. We need to learn to play when he isn’t there. We cannot be too dependent, this is a team sport after all. He has been phenomenal for us and surely, it’s a huge miss.”
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