India Men’s National Team Head Coach Igor Stimac stressed that the Asian Games will present an opportunity for younger players in his squad to prove their mettle, ahead of the team’s departure for Hangzhou, China for the Asian Games.
The Blue Tigers are set to leave for the Asian Games on Sunday, September 17, 2023, where they will face hosts China (September 19), Bangladesh (September 21), and Myanmar (September 24).
Speaking to the media ahead of the team’s departure, Stimac said, “Those players who are not primarily on the list in the team have a great opportunity in front of them. It’s a great challenge for them to prove themselves, to achieve their dreams, and to prove that they deserve better opportunities in the ISL and in their clubs.”
The 56-year-old outlined his trust in the younger generation and his confidence in them.
“One of the reasons why no senior player was involved on my first list was my faith and trust in the younger generation and this is because I opened the door of the Senior National Team widely to them on the very first day of my work here,” said Stimac. “That’s why I am confident going there even without senior players.”
Kenkre FC’s Azfar Noorani is the only player from last season’s I-League, to have made it to the Indian squad for the Asian Games, and Stimac feels that that is totally on the 24-year-old’s performance.
“Azfar got into this primary first list of 50 players who were there based on their performances last season. It will be a great opportunity for him to meet the coach of the senior national team, to work with us for a few days as long as it takes and to prove himself,” said Stimac.
With two days left for India’s Asiad campaign to begin, Stimac feels that it is important to focus as much as possible within this time.
“We need to focus on what can be done in the next two days until the kick-off, to do everything possible within our power to open the tournament with a good fight.”
The India head coach highlighted the importance of looking at the bigger picture in the context. “Obviously, the most important thing will be how to prepare them for the bigger picture of the tournament, because we have three games (in the group stage).
With the three games in Group A coming in quick succession, Stimac believes that it will be imperative for India to save their legs for the last push to the knockout rounds.
“China will be a tough side, and they prefer a 4-4-2 system, which might change to a 3-4-3 occasionally. They have three senior players that are very important to their side, a striker who is as tall as a tower, and scored 26 goals in their Super League, and an experienced attacking midfielder,” he said, “So we will need to be clever and preserve our energy for the next two games, and then we might make it to the knockout rounds.”