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India Enter Final Round of the Asian Cup 2023 Qualifiers

A draw against Afghanistan in the final group match of the joint-qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup and the Asian Cup 2023 has locked the third-place spot for Team India. In the eight matches played in the preliminary round 2, the Blue Tigers have accumulated seven points and a third-place finish has ensured that Igor Stimac’s team has qualified for the final round of the qualifiers for the Asian Cup 2023. 

Let’s look at the journey and what the imminent future holds for the Blue Tigers.

 

FINAL ROUND OF ASIAN CUP QUALIFIERS BECKONS

This was the final match of the season for the Indian football team. The third round of the Asian Cup 2023 qualifiers will begin in February 2022. The 24 teams qualified for the third round would be divided into six groups of four and would compete for the remaining 11 spots in the Asian Cup 2023. India, having secured a third-place finish in the joint-qualifiers, will be stacked in a favourable group. This will be a mini success for the Indian camp but fans all over the country aren’t all that content with the results in these eight matches. 

 

INDIA NEED STABILITY GOING FORWARD 

Igor Stimac has been the most high profile head coach India has had in some years now. He came to India on a two-year contract. However, it has been a disturbed tenure with all the complications the pandemic brought in, but the reality is that the results haven’t been anywhere close to what was desired upon his appointment. In the 15 matches in charge, Stimac’s team has won only two times with goalscoring being their biggest issue. On the other hand, Stimac hasn’t had a chance of playing many games with the national team  though he hasn’t been cautious of putting young and talented players in the mix. Under Stimac, the team has seen a major influx of young and promising players coming into the squad and delivering under tremendous pressure of international football. 

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) seems to be doubting this progression under the Croatian manager and has handed him a contract extension till September 2021. The match against Afghanistan could just be the last game under Stimac but that wouldn’t be ideal for the squad. The team needs some stability and if we are constantly chopping and changing managers then it doesn’t help anybody. As Stimac has delivered a place in the final round of the Asian Cup 2023 qualifiers, the Croatian should be given the opportunity to finish the job he has started with the Indian national team and lead them to the tournament in China.  

 

MORE WORK TO BE DONE

Under Stimac, apart from the 6-0 drubbing against UAE in an international friendly, the team has shown that it can be defensively compact and a tough team to play against. But it is in the final third where lies the major issues for this team. Apart from the great Sunil Chhetri who is ageing by the day, there isn’t one player in the squad who is a natural goalscorer. In matches where India needs to take the charge and break compact defences, the team struggles tremendously. The only way the team looks likely to score is via set-pieces and that needs to improve going forward. 

The ability to pick passes in the middle of the park, combination play with the forwards and the movements of the forwards all need to be perfected over the course of the next few years. The ability to successfully hurt teams on the counter-attack is also a facet of the game the team needs to improve on. The team also needs to be comfortable when playing out from the back and all these aspects of their play need constant improvement if India is serious about increasing the standard of the national team. It feels like the work has just begun under Stimac and if we were to part ways now then another manager would come in and we’ll be back to square one. So it’s better that the Croatian is given another contract extension.

 

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