AIFF Media Team
MALE, MALDIVES: A couple of days prior to the kick-off of India’s campaign against Bangladesh in the SAFF Championship in the Maldives, Indian National Team Head CoachIgor Stimacstated that the Blue Tigers won’t be approaching any specific set plan for the SAFF Championship.
“We will be playing a style which will bring us results,” he averred. Referring to the two matches played on the inaugural day, the Head Coach said, “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.”
“We are trying to provide all necessary information to our players about our opposition, and motivate ourselves. We came here four days before the tournament, and we have trained on artificial and natural grass. We are taking good care of the players, and explaining to them the possible situations,” Stimac informed.
“The players know what I'm expecting from them, and what their duties are. So I'm very confident and excited about this tournament and I really expect to enjoy this tournament and not to have any nervousness. We are determined to represent India in a good manner and deliver what is expected from us on the pitch.”
Bangladesh, India’s opponents in the first match sit pretty on 3 points after their solitary goal victory against Sri Lanka in the inaugural match of the Championship.
Talismanic captain Sunil Chhetri stressed on everyone being “jolly” in the squad. “The mood in the camp is upbeat. There is a lot of familiarity in the squad, and we gel well. The youngsters push us to the limits. Everyone is jolly and we want to put our best foot forward, and do well.”
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu feels the level of competition in the SAFF region has “definitely improved”.
“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.”
Stimac explained that the Blue Tigers are missing not just Sandesh Jhingan, but also Rowllin Borges, and Ashqique Kuruniyan, all of whom are under rehab at the moment.
“It's not just Sandesh alone whom we are missing. Borges has been absent for a while for the National Team, and even Ashique. But we just cannot think of that at the moment. We wish them a fast recovery and expect them to join us as soon as possible,” Stimac expressed.
“But we have other players here, and we need to have enough capacity to cover all the positions. Sandesh was a leader, very vocal, and he held the team together. But we need to replace him together as a team, making an effort throughout 90 minutes,” the coach explained.
Sunil admitted that “the team needs to improve in a lot of areas.”
“If we're talking solely about the two games which we played against Nepal, we have to improve in a lot of areas. And that has already been talked and conveyed to us by our Head coach, and the whole coaching system,” he quipped.
“We know we could have done better in Nepal as players. And this is just me talking as a player. And whatever things that we had to work on were conveyed to us right after the game. And also now, with every passing day, we realised that every other team who probably are in the same region are also improving – which means that if we play against them, we cannot afford to be 90 percent. Not just against Nepal, but in a game against any one of them. That is one of the biggest learnings that we have learned playing Nepal in Nepal.”
“And hopefully, we will take it in our stride. Taking that forward to this tournament, we realise that there will not be a single easy game for us.”