Indian football team head coach Igor Stimac has expressed satisfaction with the national side’s (India XI) performance in an exhibition match against IFA XI here on Monday evening, saying he was looking forward to having such games on a regular basis to improve the performance of the national side ahead of the two international friendlies against Nepal in September.
The men’s team’s preparatory camp had kicked off in Kolkata on Sunday for the friendlies against Nepal, with 23 of the shortlisted players reporting for duty. Those competing in the AFC Cup — currently underway in Maldives — for their respective clubs will join the camp once the tournament is over.
India XI rode on a second-half strike from Akash Mishra to win by a solitary goal.
“I am really happy and grateful about the organisation of this game, and we will do our best to have such games like this one,” Stimac stated. “We won’t mind having such matches regularly, and maybe in another seven days we may think and want another practice game like this,” the coach said.
“Kolkata is a great football place and during the pandemic when it is difficult to find games, this is one of the best places to train.”
This is the first time in 15 years that the national camp is being organised in Kolkata. The last time it was held in 2006 ahead of the FIFA World Cup Qualifier against Saudi Arabia.
“I was cautious about my players not picking up injuries, and wanted to understand how they handled the game. They went into the pitch after a long time, and without much practice,” Stimac said.
Stimac, who coached Croatia to qualify for the FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014 also hinted that he “may consider releasing Sandesh Jhingan from the ongoing camp.”
Referring to Sandesh’s move to Croatia to play League Football, Stimac said, “Having in mind that the Croatian League has already had five rounds, and the players are fit, we are thinking as to how we can help Sandesh get into form as soon as possible, and also try to facilitate him get his place in the team. It’s important for him to get into the playing XI. So we may consider releasing him from the camp and bringing him back but allow him to stay with the club,” the coach informed.
India will be travelling to Kathmandu later this month to play Nepal in two international friendlies in September. “It is very difficult to organise matches under such circumstances. You need to understand that no one is able to come to India, and if we want to go out to play there are quarantine rules. So the options are very limited,” he added.
“We had agreed to first play Libya and Jordan in Istanbul. But the long duration of quarantine in Istanbul didn’t allow us to proceed with the matches. We also looked at other options wherein we agreed to play Nepal and Malaysia in Nepal. But Malaysia couldn’t travel owing to quarantine rules back home in their country,” the coach said.
“Now we need to prepare for the next 12 days before we head to Nepal. We also have the SAFF Championship in October followed by the AFC U-23 Qualifiers — maybe the best option will be to hold on with the U23 team all throughout October.”