Indian football team head coach Igor Stimac has said that India winning the SAFF Championship for the eighth time is not a “special success” as the country dominates the South Asian region and is aiming to do well in the 2023 Asian Cup qualification. India won the regional tournament title after beating Nepal 3-0 in the final in Male on Saturday, Stimac’s first title as the team’s coach. During a virtual press conference with the media on Tuesday, Stimac said, “I don’t consider it (Saif title) a special success because it is normal for India to win the SAIF tournament, but it shows that we have dominance in this competition and we You can improve your game a lot.
Stimac, however, admitted that there was a lot of pressure on his side to deliver a result after drawing draws against Bangladesh (1-1) and Sri Lanka (0-0) in the first two round-robin matches. The results of these initial matches put India in danger of being knocked out of the race for the final. India then defeated Nepal 1–0 and hosts Maldives 3–1 in a do or die match and then went on to win the final.
“Obviously after the first two games we were in a difficult position but things seemed to be getting worse only because of the results,” Stimac said. There was no change in our attitude, shots towards the goal, chances to score, movement and energy of the players. Sometimes we score and sometimes we don’t, and that makes a difference. So the pressure was on our shoulders to deliver results but we were able to deal with it and in the end we were able to win the trophy which is the most important thing.
Stimac is in Bengaluru after returning from Maldives and is leaving for Dubai with the U-23 national team on Tuesday night. The team is scheduled to participate in the 2022 Asian Under-23 Championship qualifiers in the UAE from October 25 to 31. The Croatia coach said the team aims to qualify for the 2023 Asian Cup, the third round of the qualifiers starting in early February next year.
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The situation during the Asian Cup qualification matches will be awkward as these matches will be held outside FIFA’s international match window and the federation needs to persuade the Indian Super League (ISL) organizers and clubs to release players included in the national team. Stimac said, ‘We don’t know who we have to fight with, we don’t know about our group yet. We have to prepare because we have been told that our first match will be on February 1. If we have to be successful in this qualifier, which will be outside the FIFA window, then we will have to sit with other stakeholders of domestic competitions (ISL) and see how much time will be given to the players of the national team to prepare.