India doesn't have great defenders yet - Igor Stimac leaves no hiding place after 4-2 loss to Tajikistan

After a poor defensive display saw India slip to a 4-2 loss to Tajikistan in the opening clash of the Intercontinental Cup 2019, India coach Igor Stimac said the country doesn't have great defenders yet.

Igor Stimac said the Indian team's lack of concentration was the turning point in the side's 4-2 loss to Tajikistan in the Intercontinental Cup 2019 on Sunday.   -  Twitter@IndianFootball

India's Intercontinental Cup campaign began on a losing note as the side conceded four goals in the second half to slip to a 4-2 loss against Tajikistan on Sunday.

Igor Stimac's men led 2-0 at end of the first half, but the defense fell apart and conceded four goals in the second 45 to slip to a disappointing loss.

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Talking post the game, Stimac said his players followed his plan down to the T in the first half: "Our plan was going too well and I was afraid of how well everything was going. The players were well concentrated and we had prepared well. We knew their most dangerous players are in the middle, the three midfielders who have great passes and create spaces. It was really important that we followed those move an stop crosses. It was brilliant in the first half, except for one mistake from Narender (Gahlot), but the rest was fantastic. With a third goal, we could have finished the game in the first half," he said.

"I told them at half time that this is a dangerous game because they (Tajikistan) are in competition form and we are not. In the last 12 days they played three competitive games," he added.

Talking about debutant Narender Gahlot, he said: "After a few mistakes, it was normal that such a young player would lose a bit of ground. But I need to back him up because we don't have great defenders yet in this country."

"I need to use his abilities - he has fantastic physical abilities. His endurance level is phenomenal like the top European players. He has good speed and his resistance is fantastic. If we teach him how to compete and how to concentrate for 95 minutes, we will have a great defender. But we need to suffer until then, that's it," he added.

Stimac also revealed he was forced to keep ace defenders Sandesh Jhingan and Anas Edathodika out of the game owing to injuries. "We had so many problems defensively - with Sandesh and Anas not ready yet, I did not want to push any of them because the Olympic Qualifiers are much more important for us and I tried to save them," he said.

The Croat added the the side's lapse of concentration in the second half was what cost India the game. "We could not find much concentration in the second half to keep going on in the same way and that was the biggest problem. The main problem in Asian football is a lack of concentration. Especially in the second half, the gaps between the lines became obvious and every body lost his position too easily. You could see the the game changed after individual mistakes - not after team and collective mistakes."

He also spoke about the need to improve the youngsters in Indian football. "We have many young players who are here for the first time. We had many 18-20 year olds, but it's not an excuse - their (Tajikistan) average age today was 22 and a half. We need to be worried about that. This Tajikistan team has beaten us with their U-23 side and they beat us well. We must think now what we did wrong in the younger ages and what we must improve and how we teach the players how to grow up," he said.

Looking ahead, he said: "We need to take the positives from the first half and analyse the mistakes we made. We need to become a competitive team that can play 95 minutes. We are becoming a good passing side that can attack and combine well. I told the players that football is like this, everything can change in three days. So we need to forget about this."

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