Some players are Maradonas in training, but disappear during games - Igor Stimac on trying out new players

India football coach Igor Stimac said he has tried out 27 players across the King's Cup and the Intercontinental Cup to ensure he can get his team right for the upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

India football coach Igor Stimac has handed nine debuts since his arrival in May.   -  Twitter @IndianFootball

India’s poor showing in the Intercontinental Cup football did not disappoint head coach Igor Stimac, who said the two matches so far helped him figure out the national team for the future. With the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers scheduled in September, the Croatian gaffer said he was focused on getting his team right.

“Now it is very clear to me about whom to count on and whom not to consider. Everybody got a chance and not a single player now can now complain of being left out,” Stimac said after the team’s loss against DPR Korea.

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Stimac has tried out 27 players in the two squads he picked for Kings’ Cup in Thailand last month and the Intercontinental Cup. And in the course, nine players made their debuts for the country.

Revealing the idea behind the whole exercise, Stimac said, “It was essential to give them minutes on the pitch as it not possible to judge a player properly in training. Some players are (Diego) Maradonas in training but when the games come they disappear.”

“I wouldn’t be naming the players as it is not my way. But you cannot hide the truth and the evidence is there for you to see. When I changed the players (after the first session) the new combination started playing, started taking responsibility and started creating chances,” he added.

Stimac made his preference clear for the youngsters like Anirudh Thapa, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Sahal Abdul Samad and Udanta Singh, who were the second-half substitutes against DPR Korea. “Of course it is not possible to keep the shape and go up and down all the time but I was proud in the way they played. I won’t mind losing the game if you play like that,” he said of the two second-half goals India scored in the eventual 2-5 defeat.

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“I gave my players the chance to play for their country. I told them to show courage and enjoy football. But if you are not ready to show up and fight then the game is lost and that is what happened to us in the first 45 minutes,” he said.

“There were many mistakes and many wrong decisions. The team did not put up a fight and the players were not covering each other. In the second half it was the opposite story and that is what I am proud of. When you go three nil down (in the opening half) it is very difficult to get up,” he added.

“I always have the selection of the first team in my mind but five or six among this are in the post-operation treatment period or are injured,” Stimac said about need to test a a large number of players. “I brought Anas (Edathodika) (out of retirement) here and kept him out of the squad to shape him up for the qualifiers as we need responsible men at the back. I feel sorry for Sandesh (Jhingan) as he wanted to play (after) feeling 100 per cent fit. But it appears his heart was bigger than his health. But we made a mistake and feel bad as we may miss him for a few weeks,” Stimac continued.

“We are missing Ashique (Kuruniyan) and Jeje (Lalpekhlua).They give us options in attack. I cannot depend on Sunil (Chhetri) to deliver in every game,” he added.

Looking to dispel doubts about his intent in the tournament, Stimac said the Intercontinental Cup was important to prepare the Indian side for bigger battles ahead. “I did not do any experiments as there are not many options available. The 23 players in the squad are among the best selection of players and we just gave them the time to play. It was about training them, educating them and preparing the team for the qualifiers,” he said.

“Playing the final is unrealistic and I do not want to get into the mathematical chance of India reaching the final by beating Syria by a huge margin. We just want to finish the tournament without any injuries,” he concluded.  

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