The decision to persevere with Manvir Singh proved its worth as India beat Kuwait to pick up its first away win in two decades in the World Cup qualifiers, feels the National coach Igor Stimac.
“I can say that our patience got us to the goal. Those who watched the game would have probably changed Manvir in the half-time because he did not play that well.
“We did not create much in the first 45 minutes. But I know what Manvir is capable of and I am asking everyone here to be more patient to get results,” Stimac said as India started its preparations for its second match against Qatar, which comes up here at the Kalinga Stadium on Tuesday.
“We do not have a pool of one million players, and when we speak of replacing someone like Sunil Chhetri in another year’s time, we just cannot rubbish players like Manvir Singh or Rahim Ali after one bad performance. We need to be patient and back them up so that we get the best of them,” Stimac added.
The win against Kuwait was a big source of motivation coming at the start of India’s FIFA World Cup 2026 qualification campaign.
“It is very motivating as we defeated the best opponent for the second position. We have to be in the top two positions to go to the next round of the qualifiers so, this helps in our goal of reaching the next round.
“Qatar is one of the pre-tournament favourites from the group. We do not have high expectations but we know we have a chance and we have to grab that with both hands,” Stimac said.
It is good that the Indian players are making the necessary adaptations in their game to be successful, Stimac felt.
“I do not want to look back in history and compare this team with any other Indian team of the past. Football is changing and our boys need to adapt to the changes – by that, I mean changes in the game, lifestyle and all other necessary aspects to become successful. It is also about hard work, a lot of sacrifice, commitment and hunger, which I am taking care of,” Stimac said.
The coach said injuries to some of the key players is a big worry but that would not bring the team down as there are adequate replacements.
“Our main worry was the impact on the quality of the starting XI owing to the injuries. Losing the likes of Anwar (Ali), Ashique (Kuruniyan) and Jeakson (Singh) was a big blow for us as they were the young players who brought energy and quality to this side.
“They are the players who are greatly involved in the build-up of the game, in the different aspects like high press, defensive and offensive transitions. But we were able to get over that crisis against Kuwait by having a good pool of players that helped us find the right replacements,” he said.
Stimac felt that the next opponent Qatar (currently 61in FIFA rankings) is a big challenge but his team should play without any pressure to show its real quality.
“We have analysed Qatar from every angle and position and know very well what they are capable of in terms of speed and strength. Their defensive and offensive positions are immaculate which they demonstrated against Afghanistan by scoring eight goals.
“They could well have scored eight more. It is going to be very difficult and I just want the boys to enjoy their game in the next match. The first and bigger part was accomplished by winning against Kuwait, now I want the boys not to feel any pressure and show their quality against Qatar,” Stimac said.
The coach said that India had previously held Qatar to a draw in a previous World Cup qualifier (in September 2019) and the team is in the state to come up with a better showing.
“Prior to that result we had a two-month long camp and could work on certain drills of counter-attacking football by using the available players at that moment. We are a much better side when it comes to passing, ball possession and transitions and we can hurt Qatar more but we need to be careful that if we open up against Qatar it will be suicidal,” Stimac added while weighing his team’s approach in the next match.
Stimac says that the win against Kuwait proves that the Indian players have the mindset that they can beat anyone.
“I would say that we were never short of self-confidence. But each win boosts your self-confidence. We have worked on the change of mindset over the last few years. And now our boys believe that they can beat anyone,” he said. Stimac also pointed out that poor refereeing and wrong decisions especially in the Friendlies do a lot of damage to the team’s confidence level.
“We showed that we had a high self-confidence in the King’s Cup and Merdeka Cup, the tournaments where we really did not want to go. Sometimes you cannot do much if the referees let you down.
“We cannot let the referees destroy our confidence as we know that we are capable of playing good football. So when it comes to playing the official tournament the referees give better decisions than what they are doing when we are playing friendlies,” he said.
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