The head coach of the national football team, Igor Stimac, said on Monday that India’s international friendly against Belarus is next week “as of now”, although the AIFF is in constant contact with FIFA over “possible sanctions” against the European country. that supported the Russian invasion of Ukraine. All India Football Federation (AIFF) officials have said India tried to avoid playing Belarus on March 26 in Manama, Bahrain, amid a global sports boycott by Russia and Belarus.
The world football association FIFA has suspended Russia, but has not yet announced such a measure for Belarus.
“It’s normal. We’re going to Bahrain to face them (Bahrain). Bahrain is hosting these matches. So from now on, the competition has started,” Stimac said during a virtual press conference when asked about the status of the contest. against Belarus.
“We are in daily contact with FIFA about everything that is going on in Ukraine and about possible sanctions (against Belarus) but as far as we are concerned, the game is on.” India, without talisman skipper Sunil Chhetri, who is out due to injury, will play host country Bahrain on March 23 before taking on the game in Belarus three days later.
These two international friendlies are part of India’s preparation for the Asian Cup final qualifiers to be held in Kolkata in June. India will face Hong Kong, Afghanistan and Cambodia at Salt Lake Stadium in Group D matches from June 8-14.
“We are favorites in the group, we host the group and there is nothing to complain about. But we should earn it on the pitch,” Stimac said when asked about Asian Cup qualifiers.
“The other three teams will also compete for qualifying, we can’t take it easy on anyone. We shouldn’t look at the rankings of the teams. We have to earn it on the field and that’s how we will prepare.” The winners of the six groups and the five best second-placed teams will go to the Asian Cup in China in 2023. The matches of the six groups will be played in different countries.
He added that India will play at least four more international friendlies before the qualifying rounds of the Asian Cup final.
Stimac said he is looking forward to testing different combinations during the two international friendlies in Manama to prepare for different scenarios during the Asian Cup qualifiers in June.
“We are going to prepare different combinations. As a contender for a first place in the group, we have to think about attacking football, play with more players forward, take more risks.” The head coach said he will give opportunities to the new players in the two games but warned against jumping weapons by declaring ISL performers as quality players on the international stage.
“The pace of ISL is way below the pace of international football. Sometimes we are impressed by some players in ISL, but when they come to international matches they can’t do anything. We have to be pretty sure of their quality at the international competitions,” said the Croat.
“I want to see some new faces. It’s important for me to find out how much they can do on the international stage. I give each player a certain minute on the pitch and see their abilities.”
“The two games (against Bahrain and Belarus) will show where his team is at the moment. We chose the opponents very carefully, they are ranked better, although I said ranks don’t matter.” He named Roshan Singh and Vice President Suhair as the young players to watch out for, while also describing Sahal Abdul Samad as one of his favorite players.
“Roshan has been consistent all season, he played left or right, both flanks, made great crosses, assisted a lot, his crosses are with the eyes, he always finds the players in the penalty area and creates chances. That’s what we need most of all. because we are the favorites in our group in the Asian Cup qualifiers.” Stimac also said that after the match against Bahrain, three players from Mumbai City FC will leave the team as the ISL side has to prepare for the AFC Champions League.
He said that in the absence of Chhetri, goalkeeper Gupreet Singh Sandhu and defender Sandesh Jhinghan will wear the captain’s armbands.
Speaking of the ongoing ISL, Stimac said he has seen some of the most spectacular goals since the start of the competition and can be compared to the level of the Premier League.
He also said most of the ISL goalkeepers, except Prabhsukhan Gill, have had a “nightmare season”, made “unnecessary mistakes” and conceded “funny” goals, although he said it was part of football.
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