Clinical attack, Trevor’s experience and Udanta’s pace – Stimac lays down mantra for India at AFC Asian Cup 2023

Though India’s head coach, did not shy away from considering the team underdogs, he said that the team will look to capitalise on whatever opportunities it gets. 

Published : Dec 31, 2023 19:02 IST , Chennai - 4 MINS READ

FILE PHOTO: India’s football coach Igor Stimac.
FILE PHOTO: India’s football coach Igor Stimac. | Photo Credit: AFP

FILE PHOTO: India’s football coach Igor Stimac. | Photo Credit: AFP


Indian football will look to turn over a new chapter in 2024 when its men’s senior football team starts the year with the AFC Asian Cup in Qatar next month.

The Blue Tigers had finished as runners-up in 1964 but its results since have been far from promising, making group-stage exits on three occasions (1984, 2011, 2019) since.

Though Igor Stimac, India’s head coach, did not shy away from considering the team underdogs, he said that it will look to capitalise on whatever opportunities it gets against highest-ranked opponents, Australia, Syria and Uzbekistan.

“We have quite a few things on our mind first, how to defend our goal and then after that to find the gaps in between the lines of these teams, big teams,” Stimac told reporters in a virtual interaction on Sunday.

“We are not expecting to have much ball possession here or many opportunities to come in front of their goal. But as many times as we go there (in attacking positions), we need to have a very clear idea about what to do.”

India starts its campaign against Australia on December 13, a side ranked 77 spots above it, which reached the knockouts of the FIFA World Cup in the same country, in 2022.

ALSO READ | Carpe diem: India coach Igor Stimac asks his boys to seize the moment at AFC Asian Cup 2023

“We all know what’s Australia capable of. They are regular at the World Cups, always trying to get out of the group stage and are mostly successful in doing so. So, they are one of the favourites here,” Stimac said.

He also heaped praises on Uzbekistan and its head coach Srecko Katanek, who had steered Slovenia to the European Championship and FIFA World Cup for the first time.

“Uzbekistan is one of the dark horses of the tournament with fantastic recent results. Whoever they play, they make it really difficult for them. Be their physicality, with their speed, with their technique. They are a fantastic team of players with a great manager who I know really well. He’s been successful wherever he was,” he said.


India will also look to benefit from the experience of former England International Trevor Sinclair, who has joined the team as an assistant to help the side with wide-play and set-pieces.

The 50-year-old has travelled directly to Doha and will stay with the team for the duration of the tournament.

Sinclair has almost two decades of playing experience and was one of the players Stimac shared the dressing room with, back in West Ham United in the Premier League.

It was there that he specialised in his wing play, earning a call-up for the Three Lions – an area Stimac is looking for expertise in for his side.

“Trevor is a guy who’s got great experience as a player. He’s been working in development programs, he’s got his Academy there, produces really good players and knows what needs to be done in such circumstances.” Stimac said.

“And mostly these first four or five days we’re going to use (his experience) for this work.”

However, the Croat said that before focusing on the attack, he will look to patch the defence.

ALSO READ | India announces 26-member squad for AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023

“The first thing we’re going to work on is to stop conceding goals from the set pieces. That’s more important the moment you know, and then after that, we’re gonna work on combinations and how to score the goals from set pieces,” he said.


Stimac had lambasted Udanta Singh after India’s 0-3 loss to Qatar in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers, almost indicating that he might not make it to the Asian Cup squad.

“We’ve been carrying Udanta with us for a long time, expecting a lot, not getting enough…Some players got enough chances. So, Udanta will need to go back to his club and there prove to everyone in the country that he deserves the national team shirt again,” he had said.

A month later, Udanta, with his Indian Super League (ISL) team FC Goa sitting second in the standings, was named in the final squad for the continental competition. And Stimac said that his pace will be an important factor for India in Qatar.

“He’s been a regular within the team and he’s been involved in most of the goals there. He’s the quickest player we have in India and that speed is something we need to hurt the opponents like Australia, Uzbekistan or Syria,” he said. 

Sign in to unlock all user benefits
  • Get notified on top games and events
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign up / manage to our newsletters with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early bird access to discounts & offers to our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide to our community guidelines for posting your comment