Strong Oman challenge for India U-23 footballers in opener

Head coach Igor Stimac said the next three matches of the qualifying campaign will provide a chance for the Indian players to gauge "where they stand against their generation" of other Asian countries.

"We don't have huge expectations. We hope everyone will give their best on the pitch. That's what I am asking from the players," Stimac said.   -  AP

India will take on a strong Oman side in the first match of its qualifying campaign for the AFC U-23 Asian Cup here on Sunday.

Head coach Igor Stimac said the next three matches of the qualifying campaign will provide a chance for the Indian players to gauge "where they stand against their generation" of other Asian countries.

"The next three matches provide a chance to the youngsters to gain some experience and gauge where they stand against their generation of stronger sides like Oman, UAE, and Kyrgyz Republic," Stimac said at a press conference on Saturday.

The Indian team landed here on October 20 and had its first training session the next day.

READ: Indian women's football team faces Djurgarden in friendly match on Saturday

"We don't have huge expectations. We hope everyone will give their best on the pitch. That's what I am asking from the players," Stimac said.

"Right at this moment, it's difficult to say how we will fare against stronger sides who are prepared more than us for this leg. But I also hope we can surprise some. We will look for our chances." India have been clubbed in Group E along with hosts UAE, Oman and Kyrgyz Republic.

Asked to rate Oman as an opponent, Stimac said: "We have analysed the games which Oman played in the last tournament they played.

"We tried to explain to our players about their strength, and how we should play but we need to see how we can execute it on the field."

"Every match brings forward different situations at certain stages, and then it's all about how the players can adapt and proceed," the coach added.

READ: I-League Qualifiers: Delhi FC humiliates Madan Maharaj FC 6-0; still fails to qualify

Five of the U-23 players were in the senior national squad that won the SAFF Championship in the Maldives last week.

"I hope their experience of playing with the senior national team will add to the confidence of the team, and make others comfortable and encourage everyone to play well in this leg of the qualifiers," Stimac said.

"We were happy with the qualifying rounds of the Asian Cup wherein we played the Asian Champions (Qatar) twice on their own ground. We just conceded one goal which shows that India is becoming strong defensively."

"We were extremely organised, and disciplined. It's great to think about a better future for Indian football. We have also qualified for the third round in the Asian Cup qualifiers, and expect to qualify for the AFC Asian Cup China 2023."

For more updates, follow Sportstar on :