Igor Stimac: Injuries affected results in World Cup qualifier games

Head coach Igor Stimac stated injuries to key players as a major setback as India failed to win both of their last two World Cup qualifiers.

Igor Stimac stated at the launch of I-League that any player with an Indian passport was eligible for national team selection.   -  AIFF Media

The national football team may not have been having the best of times but coach Igor Stimac continues to look at the positives in his brief time at the helm so far. He also seemed to be making a statement at the continued importance of I-League as a feeder for the national team was concerned by appearing at the launch of the 13th edition of the competition here on Thursday.

“I’m here to show that the I-League is as important as the ISL. I’m here to send the players the message that all those who have an Indian passport are possible candidates for the Indian team,” Stimac said.

The 52-year old Croat, who has been with the side for just six months, has overseen the Indian side unable to get past lower-ranked teams in the ongoing World Cup qualifiers and now on the brink of failing to advance any further.

The coach admitted he was disappointed but blamed injuries to key players as the main reason for the poor show. “We faced big difficulties with the regard to opponents and climatic conditions. The injury problems were the most difficult issue we faced. Losing important players like Sandesh Jhingan, Rowllin Borges and Amarjit Singh and then Pranoy Halder missing out a couple of matches initially and getting injured during the Oman match, all these have contributed to the results,” Stimac said.

Must create chances

India lost 1-0 to Oman away in its latest outing and played three consecutive draws – against Qatar, Bangladesh and Afghanistan – since losing to Oman at home and is now fourth in Group E with three points from five games.

“We came back home a bit disappointed after the last two matches but that did not undermine our faith and believes in what we do. We need to be positive and the simple reason is facts. In the last World Cup qualifiers, we had five consecutive defeats. Now we have two defeats and three draws. The important thing is we are creating chances. The team does not fear any opposition, this is a new brave team, India with the heart and courage to play football and win matches,” he quipped.

Chhetri still an integral part

He also dismissed any concerns over Sunil Chhetri not scoring in in the last three games. “I don’t know why people mention Sunil, he is not going anywhere. He is fit and doing his best. He is very valuable to us. His body is like a 29-year-old. As long as he is training like he is doing right now and giving his best for the national team, he will be with us, I can assure you that,” Stimac said.

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