Fierce competitive spirit will override camaraderie between rival coaches when India take on Lebanon in the final of the Intercontinental Cup football tournament at the Kalinga Stadium Bhubaneswar on Sunday.
India chief coach Igor Stimac and his opposite number Aleksandar Ilic have been long-time friends ever since they were teammates at Spanish club Cadiz back in 1994 and there is plenty of mutual respect between the two.
But Stimac’s stance on the eve of the summit clash indicated not an inch would be given after two clear goal-scoring opportunities went abegging for India in their previous outing against Lebanon on Thursday.
Anirudh Thapa missed a sitter and captain Sunil Chhetri, after receiving a perfect delivery from the central midfielder, failed to find the back of the net.
Stimac made wholesome chances in all three games so far but with the stakes too high, it’s unlikely he would veer too far away from his time-tested combination.
Stimac said he wouldn’t want to change much in terms of tactics.
“Besides not scoring (in the previous game), I don’t think we did anything wrong. I don’t think we should change many things. We need a lot of speed,” said Stimac.
Stimac emphasised the importance of remaining calm and composed in front of the goal.
“The instruction is always same for our players when they are in front of the goal; keep calm and keep your eye on the ball; make sure you hit the goal, you don’t miss it. But it’s still not happening.”
Spanish duo to bolster EB
Calcutta: Emami East Bengal have roped in Spanish duo Javier Siverio and Saul Crespo for the upcoming season, the club announced on Saturday.
Forward Siverio, 25, helped Hyderabad FC win their maiden ISL title in his debut season (2021-22) in India.
Central midfielder Saul, on the other hand, played a pivotal role in Odisha FC's maiden Super Cup triumph.
"When I came to know that East Bengal were interested, I didn't hesitate to join them," Saul, 26, said.
East Bengal head coach Carles Cuadrat highlighted the skillsets of the young Spaniards.
"Siverio has been a fine goal-getter ever since he arrived in India. Saul, too, knows the competitiveness of the ISL and has played a key role in Odisha FC's Super Cup win," the Spaniard said.