Talismanic captain Sunil Chhetri will return to the national team during next month’s Asian Cup qualifiers, and head coach Igor Stimac is confident the country will win the tournament and book a ticket to the Continental Trial in China next year.
The 37-year-old Chhetri will return to the national team after six months after last playing for India during their 3-0 win over Nepal in the SAFF Championship final in October. Stimac also commented on the situation with the contract, his expectations from the qualifications and the availability of Sandesh Jhingan.
Here are key highlights from his interaction with journalists:
About Sunil Chhetri’s condition:
Stimac said Chhetri is back in full shape and will be the “main strength and power” of the team.
“Sunil is still here, he is still in great shape,” Stimac said when asked how long Chhetri could extend his career.
“We didn’t include him in the matches between Bahrain and Belarus because it took him a while to recover from some of the minor problems he has been facing for the last few years. That time has served Sunila very well. He has recovered very well. and still, at this point, he will be the main force and the strength of the Indian national team ahead. “
About Rahim Ali’s injury:
Stimac also said young striker Rahim Ali, who will be out of action for at least six weeks due to injury, will be a big loss.
“I am very sorry for Rahim Ali, who has created a great partnership with Sunil in the recent past. He was someone who made Sunil’s life much easier and did a great job, to be honest, bringing players behind and leaving Sunil open and free with the other side, ”he said.
“He was showing great progress in the game. He played with this injury on his kidnappers for most of last season, and now it’s become chronic and it’s going to keep him going for six to seven weeks.”
About his contract and expectations:
The focus is on Stimac after his contract was extended until September 2022 with a view to the 2023 AFC Asian Cup.
“Expectations are always there. I’m very confident that the work we provide here and at least this time, we’ve had enough time to prepare well, it doesn’t matter that some players aren’t with us,” the 54-year-old said during a virtual interaction.
“We have enough quality in our team with the players who are here with us to ensure that India qualifies and that is what we will do. I see India in the final stages and there is no doubt about that. We are here will have great support in the stands.”
India will now play two training matches – against ATK Mohun Bagan (Wednesday) and I-League all-stars (May 17) before flying to Doha to play two more friendly matches against Zambia (May 25) and Jordan (May 28) u advance to Asian qualifiers.
“This is a far better situation than in previous games when we got players a day or two before the games and there is nothing you can do about it. This is finally something that gives me as a coach the opportunity to prepare well for games, which was not the case before.” said Stimac.
India, which is the top-ranked team (106) in Group D, will face Hong Kong (147), Afghanistan (150) and Cambodia (171) in a one-way final qualifying round starting in Calcutta on June 8th.
“That (ranking) means nothing. Whatever there is, you need to earn it on the field for 90 minutes. The way you mentally and physically prepare your team will make a difference when the day comes,” he said.
Thirteen teams have already qualified, and another 11 places – six of the best in the group and five of the best runners-up – are in the final stages in June.
“… I’m interested in the final result in the way we qualify for the Asian Cup. That’s our goal. I don’t mind how many points or goals we give. Our goal is to qualify. Of course, if we succeed if we achieve three wins, it would be fantastic “That’s what we strive for. But my goal is to qualify.”
About Sandesh Jhingan’s availability:
As for the availability of Sandesh Jhingan, Stimac said he would monitor the progress of the central defender of the Indian star during the matches in the AFC Cup group of ATK Mohun Bagan starting on May 18.
“We will follow the players of ATK (Mohun Bagan) throughout the competition and we will see who is in shape and who is not. The competition in the team is strong. I firmly believe that we have enough quality here and whoever is here we are going to do the job,” he concluded. is.