PANAJI: Watching the probale Indian starting 11 in a practice gamne against the reserves, the India’s chief coach Igor Stimac excitedly walked down from the stands for a closer look. There was Sunil Chhetri scoring goals at ease, the midfielders striking a rhythm and wingers like Brandon Fernandes and Ashique Kuruniyan giving their markers a torrid time.
It was at the back, though, that Stimac was most concerned. A snap goal from the reserves was enough for him to blow the whistle at the GMC Athletic Stadium in Bambolim last week.
If India are to stay in contention for a place in the next stage of the World Cup qualifiers, the defenders will have to punch above their weight, particularly in the first two games against strong Oman (September 5) and Asian champions Qatar (September 10). In the five matches under Stimac – a solid central defender– the defence has conceded three goals against Curacao, four against Tajikistan and five against North Korea.
“Now, nothing is more important than the results and I’ve not forgotten that I have two aims with the Indian team. These are demands from fans of the Indian team: first, they want us to play exciting football and second, win games,” Stimac told TOI.