India football coach sticks by his ‘heroes’ despite China drubbing

India football coach sticks by his ‘heroes’ despite China drubbing

India head coach Igor Stimac praised his second-string men’s team despite their 5-1 loss to China in their Asian Games opener. Stimac acknowledged that the team “ran out of gas” in the second half but still considered the players as “heroes.” The unfamiliar line-up, captained by Sunil Chhetri, faced difficulties due to most local clubs refusing to release key players. Despite a fairly even first half, India struggled in the second period and conceded four goals. Stimac believed that if they had fielded their best team, they could have given China a “huge problem.” He commended the players for their efforts, especially considering the challenging circumstances of their late arrival in China after a 35-hour journey.

During the match, India faced difficulties maintaining the pace of the game, with several players suffering from cramps. Stimac admitted that it was expected for the team to run out of energy in the second half. He also highlighted the challenges of assembling a strong team for the competition, which falls outside the FIFA window. Stimac emphasized that the game would have been different with their first-choice players.

Looking ahead, India will need significant improvements in their performance in the next two group games against Bangladesh and Myanmar to have a chance of advancing. The top two teams from each group, along with four of the six best-placed third-place teams, will qualify for the round of 16. Stimac expressed determination, stating that they will compete with their heads held high. He also mentioned that he identified a few players who proved their worth and deserved a place in the team, which he considered the best outcome.

The article was reported by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi and edited by Peter Rutherford. The Thomson RushHourDaily Trust Principles apply.

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