We would like to play the SAFF Championship without any nervousness, says Stimac

The Indian men's football team has won the SAFF Championship seven times out of the 12 editions but coach Igor Stimac hopes his team will be able to play with confidence and shed the “nervousness” that dampened many of its recent performances.

Sunil Chhetri

Indian football team Sunil Chhetri in training ahead of the friendly against Nepal.   -  AIFF MEDIA

A couple of days before India is scheduled to start its SAFF Championship campaign against Bangladesh, national team head coach Igor Stimac hoped that the team will be able to play with confidence and shed the “nervousness” that dampened many of its recent performances.

“I just hope that it just doesn’t happen like in the recent games where we had to change three or four players after first 45 minutes when we were not happy with their performance. We need to understand that from the very first second we need to start in disciplined and organised manner. We have to show maximum aggressiveness both with the ball and after losing the ball,” Stimac said.

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Expressing his hope that the players know what is expected of them, Stimac said the team will play without any fear. “We are having short practice sessions to reduce the risk of injury and are relying on the understanding that the players know each other very well and are also aware of what we expect of them. So, I am confident and excited about the tournament and would like to enjoy the tournament without any nervousness,” said the Croatian World Cupper, who has been in charge of the national side since July 2019.

“We will be playing a style which will bring us results. There was one counter-attack by Nepal in their match against Maldives, and they won the game despite Maldives being the better side. We don’t know what each game will bring to us on the plate. We will adapt to everything that is thrown at us,” the coach said, referring to the two matches played on the inaugural day (October 1). Bangladesh beat Sri Lanka by a solitary goal in the other match and now has three points to its credit.

Indian captain Sunil Chhetri insisted that there is lot of camaraderie in the side and the dressing room atmosphere is quite upbeat. “The mood in the camp is upbeat. There is a lot of familiarity in the squad. The balance of the team is quite good and everyone in the squad is looking to give out his best in the tournament,” Chhetri said. “We saw Nepal play Maldives, and they have definitely improved. The level of the competition has become better, and teams are aware of how to exploit an opponent's weakness. We have to respect each and every team, and give our best,” he added.

 

When asked about he is motivating himself after more than 16 years in the national team, Chhetri said that the zeal to play for the country is still very strong. "Playing for the country gives me unparalleled satisfaction and that brings me to Maldives for SAAF Championship. As a youngster you have a lot of reason to play for but as you grow old most of those reasons diminish. So whenever I get a chance to play for my country, I take it very seriously," he said. "I have a played 100 matches for my country (in the last 16 years) and I know I don’t have the time for 100 more. So, whatever is left of me now, I am trying to make the most of it," he added.

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