While cricket dominates the sporting arena in India, football national coach Igor Stimac feels pride in training the Blue Tigers and feels the nation has the potential to produce some great talents in the game.
“I’ve loved every second so far,” Stimac told FIFA.com.
“It is such a responsibility, and a privilege, to lead the national team of such a vast and great country. And the passion is there. People might not think of India as a football country but it really depends where you go. In some regions cricket is still pretty dominant but in other parts football is as important for the people as it was for me growing up in Croatia.
“It’s always been said that India is a sleeping giant when it comes to football, and that’s true – because the potential is there. Together, we have to start waking that giant and make sure that we’re competitive at the next Asian Cup and going on to the World Cup qualifiers in 2026.”
Speaking on the positives and negatives of the Indian team, he said: “Scoring goals is our big problem right now.”
“We are playing some good football, and the effort is there, but we don’t have that final touch in and around the box. We need to find solutions to that and we’re working on it through set-pieces and other methods. We have also been changing the team’s style of play, with fewer long balls, and I’m seeing real progress there – the stats show our ball retention is already much better.
“I only wish we had better results so far. We were always big underdogs in this group but it will be a pity to miss out on Qatar in 2022 because I think it will be the most fascinating World Cup ever. I coached in Qatar for a while and I’ve been back to visit since stopping work there. It’s an incredible country and the people there will make the World Cup a huge success. I know there have been doubts but, honestly, it’s going to be amazing.”