Updated June 7th, 2024 at 14:09 IST

Don't have time to feel sorry for ourselves, we're still alive: Stimac

A defiant India football coach Igor Stimac said his team has no time "to feel sorry" for itself after the disappointing goalless draw against Kuwait in a crucial World Cup qualifying match here as it is "still alive" in the race to enter the third round.

भारतीय मेंस फुटबॉल टीम के कोच इगर स्टिमक | Image:AP
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A defiant India football coach Igor Stimac said his team has no time "to feel sorry" for itself after the disappointing goalless draw against Kuwait in a crucial World Cup qualifying match here as it is "still alive" in the race to enter the third round.

India were thoroughly disappointing in the game that marked the end of talismanic skipper Sunil Chhetri's international career after a glorious run of 19 years in which he scored 94 goals in 151 games.

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"We don't have time to feel sorry for ourselves as we are still alive. I need to do everything in the next five days to make the boys believe, make them create the environment of belief, which can take us into a challenge against Qatar who are a very different team," Stimac asserted in the post-match press conference.

"It's a small hope, but it's till there and we need to believe and trust in ourselves and give our best shot to win the game." India will next face Asian heavyweights Qatar in an away fixture on June 11 and will also keep a close watch on Kuwait's home match against Afghanistan on the same day.

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India need to avoid a defeat to have any chance of progressing to the next round, which would be a historic first for the side.

Stimac was critical of Sahal Abdul Samad and Anirudh Thapa who failed to impress.

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"When you don't win the game and aren't happy with the result, how can you say that some players impressed you. You could see that we couldn't start dominating the game in the middle even if we started with Sahal and Thapa. I expected much more from them in the first half.

"Sahal didn't play in the final stages. He was covering lots of ground, his defensive work was fantastic and he looked nice with Sunil. But I needed Sahal to be playmaker to dictate the game, create chances and also put in defensive work." Speaking about Thapa, Stimac said his performance was underwhelming considering that he is an experienced player.

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"Thapa has got enough experience to adapt to situations. I expect more from them as they have enough experience to do so," he added.

The coach further gave his thumbs up to the fans for turning up in huge numbers to make Chhetri's last match extra special.

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"Huge appreciation for the fans, for their support." Chhetri stirred up emotions in his final outing but the Indian football team failed to convert the chances.

"We are obviously disappointed with the result. The game was tough, as we expected. The draw is realistic tonight, they opened the game much better and with more confidence -- in terms of passing, speed of passing and moving," Stimac said.

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"It took us some time to gear up and start passing the ball into the danger zones.

"The general passing speed was our biggest problem tonight -- it wasn't good enough. Even in certain moments, when we put pressure on them, there was no quality in the delivery to help the forwards.

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Stimac was, however, happy with goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu's performance.

"That's not the reason we didn't win, we weren't clinical in front of the goal and our best player tonight was Gurpreet, which isn't a good sign. It's fantastic to have such a goalkeeper here, who we never doubted." The draw meant the long-serving Indian skipper had a tearful farewell, failing to add to his record tally of 94 goals.

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"I feel really sad for Sunil, really sad that he didn't go with a win. In regards to everything, he was not thinking of his last minutes, not a single player or staff member," he said.

Need to cope without Sunil: Gurpreet ======================== Sandhu said Chhetri's absence would be felt against Qatar but they need to cope and move forward.

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"Like any other team we prepare for, obviously this time around we won't have Sunil bhai with us, which is sad but as a nation we need to cope up with that and move forward.

"The world doesn't wait for anyone and we need to prepare ourselves in the best manner possible. Any game is not a loss before the 90 minutes and we'll go out there against Qatar to win game and give our best shot to win it," he added. 

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Published June 7th, 2024 at 14:09 IST