It has been a challenging journey for Igor Stimac as the coach of the Indian men’s football team…
Igor Stimac’s India went down 1-0 to reigning Asian champions Qatar in their sixth 2022 World Cup qualifying match on Thursday evening.
The national team is currently in Doha and are playing their World Cup qualifiers. India next play Bangladesh on June 7 and then face Afghanistan on June 15. While India does not stand a chance of qualifying for the next round of the World Cup qualifiers, they still can qualify directly for the third round of the Asian Cup 2023 qualifiers if they finish third in the group.
Stimac took charge of the Indian team back in May 2019 on a two-year deal that was supposed to expire last month. The All India Football Federation (AIFF) has now extended his stay until September 2021.
The highlight of the Stimac era was the Blue Tigers’ draw against reigning Asian champions Qatar in 2019. A gritty Indian side without their star player Sunil Chhetri had managed to hold the mighty Qataris to a goalless draw in their second World Cup qualifying game in Doha. It was a spirited performance by the Blue Tigers and a lot of credit must go to their coach.
In his stint so far, the former Croatian international handed debuts to as many as 20 Indian footballers. FC Goa’s midfielder Glan Martins became the 20th player to make his international debut under Stimac on June 3 against Qatar.
India’s results under Igor Stimac
|June 5, 2019||Curacao 3-1 India||King’s Cup||Sunil Chhetri||Buriram|
|June 8, 2019||India 1-0 Thailand||King’s Cup||Anirudh Thapa||Buriram|
|July 7, 2019||India 2-4 Tajikistan||Intercontinental Cup||Sunil Chhetri (2)||Ahmedabad|
|July 13, 2019||India 2-5 DPR Korea||Intercontinental Cup||Lallianzuala Chhangte, Sunil Chhetri||Ahmedabad|
|July 16, 2019||India 1-1 Syria||Intercontinental Cup||Narender Gahlot||Ahmedabad|
|September 5, 2019||India 1-2 Oman||2022 World Cup qualifiers||Sunil Chhetri||Guwahati|
|September 10, 2019||Qatar 0-0 India||2022 World Cup qualifiers||–||Doha|
|October 15, 2019||India 1-1 Bangladesh||2022 World Cup qualifiers||Adil Khan||Kolkata|
|November 14, 2019||Afghanistan 1-1 India||2022 World Cup qualifiers||Len Doungel||Dushanbe|
|November 19, 2019||Oman 1-0 India||2022 World Cup qualifiers||–||Muscat|
|March 25, 2021||Oman 1-1 India||International friendly||Manvir Singh||Dubai|
|March 29, 2021||UAE 6-0 India||International friendly||–||Dubai|
|June 3, 2021||India 0-1 Qatar||2022 World Cup qualifiers||–||Doha|
Challenges faced by coach Igor Stimac
The biggest challenge that the Croatian faced as India’s coach was the 16 months gap where the Indian national team did not play a single game due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. After a busy 2019, where the Blue Tigers played 10 matches under Stimac’s tutelage, not a single international match was played in 2020.
Thus after playing their last competitive game in November 2019, it was only in March 2021, that Stimac got to reassemble the squad. India played two friendly matches against Oman and UAE in March 2021.