Stimac: Big difference in defensive record from previous World Cup qualifiers

India's head coach Igor Stimac pointed out that one of the biggest takeaways from his ongoing tenure is the improved defensive record of the team.

Indian football team pulled off a famous draw at Qatar in the World Cup qualifiers.   -  REUTERS

After being appointed as the head coach of the Indian men's national team in May, Croatian Igor Stimac stated that "he already feels like home" in the country and stated that there is already a marked difference in the quality of football played by his side.

"We have just started our work in the last six months," he said, during a live Q&A session on Facebook. "There is a great difference now in the quality of our game and one can look at the statistics and facts to see it. For example, we now have seven players who can cover over 12,000 metres in a match, including 1,000 metres of sprints."

"We have had a great few games and some tough ones as well. The toughest games are where you are considered favourites and now I can easily say that India has become a team that is difficult to beat. We need to mature our game and continue putting in quality work in order to keep moving forward."

Stimac pointed out the improved defensive record of the Blue Tigers, citing the number of goals conceded in the first five FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifiers, which featured the memorable draw away to Asian champion Qatar. "In the five games so far, we have conceded only five goals. The number was 18 (in eight matches) in the previous qualifiers (2018 FIFA World Cup). There is a big difference now," he said.

The Indian team, however, has won just once in 10 matches since his takeover.

The 52-year-old's tenure has seen a number of players take their senior team bows, with a significant portion of them establishing themselves as regular names on the Indian team sheet. The Croat shared his point of view on team selection and stressed on the importance of consistency in a player's performance.

"I do not see if a player is young or old -- for me, it's either good or not good enough. The door is open to everyone. There are 11 players in the starting line-up & 23 on the team-sheet. The best performers will get a chance but they have to be consistent. The good performance needs to be maintained for the whole season and there needs to be a degree of continuity."

The coach also shed light on the work being done off the pitch as well and spoke about the plans for the near future, including friendly matches for the national team in Europe. "Not many people know what we are working on when there are no games. I have dedicated myself a million percent into the job. It's not just about choosing 23 players and having training sessions," he said.

"A lot of work has been done in the last six months and so many meetings have taken place with everyone involved in the Indian football family. Preparing players is a long process. We are doing good work and it goes at a certain speed. However, other countries are also working and we need to speed up and all push together in the same direction. With our efforts, we can get there," he maintained.

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