India remained winless in their fifth consecutive World Cup 2022 qualifier as they went down 0-1 against Oman on Tuesday in Muscat.
Coach Igor Stimac was understandably disappointed as the Blue Tigers are now close to an exit from the World Cup qualifiers. Speaking on the match the Croatian coach said, “I am disappointed with the result, we lost the game but we congratulate Oman and wish them good luck for the upcoming Gulf Cup.
“The game was interesting. Oman had more chances and they deserved to win. We were the better side in the second half, we were pushing really hard but we couldn’t score the goal and that has been our main problem in these five games. All our games from set-pieces and it is obvious that we are missing players who can score goals. We are moving well and fighting hard but we don’t have accuracy in the box.
“We showed that we can play against teams like Oman, they are a quality side. My players made me proud even today but they could have done better in the first half. But this is the learning process and we will try to get better results in future.”
India lost two crucial players (Pronay Halder and Adil Khan) to injuries in the first half itself and Stimac agreed that the injury blows hampered his planning.
He said, “When you need to make two changes in the first half due to injuries that upsets the whole team and all the work. But we were facing the same problem even before. Even Oman was suffering from such problems. They were also down and injured. They don’t have many competitive games. They need more competitive games to play high-intensity games for 90 minutes.
“But today we faced a few different challenges. Our only player who can tackle well suffered a shoulder injury. We couldn’t pick up on the second balls.”
Stimac once again pointed out how the Indian team has improved in several aspects since he joined as their coach in May. The former Croatia international said, “We played fewer high balls than Oman. Oman were killing us with high balls and the second balls. We trained in the last couple of days to switch the play with long lateral balls. We did it well a couple of times in the first half.
“Sometimes our midfielders were going for unnecessary long balls. But that is a learning process. We are teaching them not to put a straight long ball from midfield. Before I got here India played 25% long balls but now it is 15%. Passing accuracy before me was 67% and now it is 82%. We are making it difficult for the opponents to beat India and time will come soon when India will start winning. Many new players coming in and we will be improving them.”
Mandar Rao Dessai was dropped from the starting XI against Oman as Stimac preferred to field Ashique Kuruniyan in the left-back position.
Justifying his decision, the Blue Tigers’ coach said, “I decided to go with Ashique Kuruniyan because he played as a left-back in the second half against Afghanistan and he gave us a lot of advantages. He is very quick and he is very dangerous when he comes from behind. He is not a goal scorer. So either he plays a left full-back or a left-winger. He is got the capacity to play in Europe. He is very young and quick and he will do well for Indian football in future.”