India men’s national team head coach, Igor Stimac believes that Afghanistan will pose the biggest threat to them in their quest for qualification for the 2023 Asian Cup.
The Blue Tigers have been drawn in Group D alongside Hong Kong, Afghanistan, and Cambodia for the upcoming 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers which is scheduled to take place between June 8 to 14 at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata.
Stimac for his part believes that Afghanistan will pose a big threat to his side, while also stating that Hong Kong cannot be taken lightly and will be no pushovers.
“Afghanistan are much physical and stronger. They have opened their borders for players to participate in foreign leagues. Those are not leagues of that high stature but they have good organised football throughout the year,” he said at a press conference.
“They (Hong Kong) have changed rules and brought in foreigners. We will see how much they have improved. And talking about Cambodia, I think they would sit back. So that will be a different challenge,” Stimac added.
The Croatian who has been the head coach of India since May 2019 has come in for criticism from various quarters over the poor performances of his side, with the recent 2-0 loss to Jordan in an international friendly being the latest setback.
The 54-year-old however has reiterated that the national team has not failed in his three-year association with them and that the country stand a good chance for the future.
“I would say we didn’t fail and we kept ourselves alive in difficult circumstances, while changing the team systematically. We do stand a chance for the future. We have to first make sure that we qualify for the Asian Cup and we are very close to doing that. At the end of that campaign, we will have a group of players with good age and enough experience.
“That’s what we are looking for. Did we expect more than what we did? Yes — but we didn’t fail. In the three years you are talking about, two we lost to the pandemic. We had to play our home matches abroad in a bio-bubble,” the Croatian concluded.