The Indian senior national team has seen the introduction of a new system, new style of play and a number of new faces since the arrival of head coach Igor Stimac in May and according to talismanic forward Sunil Chhetri, the whole team is “enjoying” training under the former Croatia boss.
Speaking at a media interaction on Friday, July 12, Chhetri said, “The majority of our focus is on keeping the ball. There are a lot of movements and players asking for the ball. Of course, at times, we have to put safety first and we cannot be passing in defence all the time needlessly.”
“Eventually, whether it works or not, only time will tell, but I can say that I am enjoying this style and all the players are enjoying as well. The more we are in sync with the coach, it is better for us and we will back him in all his plans for the team,” he added.
Coach Stimac had stated previously about the ongoing Intercontinental Cup 2019 being a preparation for the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, that begin in September. With the team having faced Curacao and Thailand previously at the King’s Cup 2019 and now playing Tajikistan, North Korea and Syria, Chhetri stated that playing such opposition will “make the team stronger”.
He said, “The level of opposition is really good. I don’t remember the last time we played five countries of this quality together. We might lose some and might win some but these are the games you want to target. Unless you play these teams, you never know where you stand. We’ll certainly be stronger after these games and they are important if we want to go to the next level.”
Chhetri also said these set of games is crucial for the coach to pick his set of first-choice players for the upcoming qualifiers. “The two games in Thailand and three here have been really crucial. We are understanding what the coach wants from us exactly and this tournament is a progression where he is still looking for first 18-23 set of players,” he affirmed.
India will now take on North Korea in their next match on Saturday, July 13 in Ahmedabad. Tickets for the same can be bought on https://insider.in/hero-intercontinental-cup. The game can be watched live on television on the Star Sports network on SS1, SS1 HD, SS3, SS1 Bangla and Asianet Plus. It can also be streamed on Hotstar and JioTV.
Chhetri, who grabbed a brace in India’s opening game against Tajikistan, said that the whole team is “working hard” to come back from the previous loss and stressed on the importance of keeping calm.
“We need to learn from all the mistakes in the Tajikistan game and try to rectify them as much as possible. Individually, as well as collectively, we are all working hard on that. The most important thing is to keep calm and put your head down and work.”
“No one else is going to help you, which means we have to pick ourselves up and give a good account of ourselves against DPR Korea to churn out a positive result,” Chhetri, who is India’s most-capped player of all-time, said.