Igor Stimac, head coach of India’s men’s national football team, gets contract extension till June 2026

Stimac will get a further two-year extension if India qualifies for the third round of FIFA World Cup 2026

Stimac, who helped Croatia finish third at the 1998 FIFA World Cup, arrived as India’s head coach in May 2019, taking over from Stephen Constantine

Initially, it took him time to settle in India, and he won his first trophy here after two years – the SAFF Championship in 2021

Since then, India has played teams ranked close to it, mostly lower-ranked teams, to help the Blue Tigers improve their FIFA Rankings

India beat Kyrgyzstan, a team ranked 14 spots higher, in March, and Lebanon, another higher-ranked side, to win the Tri-Nations Series and the Intercontinental Series

Stimac helped India win three trophies in 2023 – the most by an Indian coach in a calendar year, as it entered into the top 100 of FIFA Rankings after five years

But he was also accused of consulting an astrologer for selecting teams for the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers. He termed the allegations baseless

Stimac was at loggerheads with Indian Super League clubs on releasing players for the Asian Games but had to give in eventually, travelling with a second-string side

India reached the round of 16 after 13 years - it had lost 0-5 to Japan in the 2010 Asian Games - but was knocked out, after a 0-2 loss to Saudi Arabia

After the contract extension, he underlined that he would look for more time with the national team players, with cooperation from ISL and AIFF

India will play in consecutive editions of the Asian Cup for the first time, in 2024, and the FIFA World Cup qualifiers next month

Stimac has breathing space now. Indian football fans will look to him to deliver