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regular-article-logo Saturday, 25 May 2024

2026 Fifa World Cup Qualifiers: Lack of strikers bothers head coach Igor Stimac

Stimac has prioritised qualification to the third round and secure a direct entry into the 2027 AFC Asian Cup

Our Bureau, PTI Guwahati Published 26.03.24, 10:46 AM
India coach Igor Stimac

India coach Igor Stimac File image

Head coach Igor Stimac on Monday said he will quit if the Indian football team fails to reach the third round of the 2026 Fifa World Cup Qualifiers.

Stimac has prioritised qualification to the third round and secure a direct entry into the 2027 AFC Asian Cup.

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“If I don’t take India to the third round I will leave, with my pride, with my honour on everything that was done here in the five years of work. I will leave my position to someone else,” Stimac told reporters on the eve of India’s home leg match against Afghanistan here.

India can still advance to the third round but the task has got a lot tougher following last week’s stalemate in the away leg against Afghanistan, from which they gained only a point.

They currently stand second in the group with four points from three games, one ahead of Kuwait, who are on three points from as many matches. India have never reached the third round of the qualifiers.

Stimac said that he was not surprised by Afghanistan’s good show against India as several of their players ply their trade in Europe.

The head coach also called for longer preparatory camps for the national squad ahead of big tournaments.

“In my four years there were three long camps that we had. One was five years ago right here prior to games against Oman and Qatar, you remember how well the team played that time.

“Second was for the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers in Calcutta, the team was flying — 3 games, 3 wins, 8-1 goal difference. Third long camp was last year prior to the tournaments that we played brilliantly, could see the intensity and everyone knew what they had to do.”

He expressed concerns at the dearth of new strikers in the ISL, saying most of the players occupying the top position are from abroad.

“Scoring problem has been haunting us for five years... I have mentioned that foreign players are occupying scoring positions and that is hurting us.

“It is not easy for them as most of them are not playing their positions at the club this season, apart from Sunil (Chhetri).”

Chhetri will be the cynosure of all eyes as he will be playing his 150th international match on Tuesday. Having played his first International in 2005, he has so far earned 149 International caps, 93 goals and 11 trophies for the country.

Match starts: 7pm, live on Fancode

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