India's Football Team Suffers Historic Low, Raises Questions About Stimac's Future

India’s Football Team Suffers Historic Low, Raises Questions About Stimac’s Future

India’s men’s football team suffered a historic low on Tuesday, losing 2-1 to Afghanistan in Guwahati. This marked the team’s third consecutive defeat in three decades, a dismal record that includes losses to Pakistan in 2005 and Guam in 2015.

Despite the presence of star striker Sunil Chhetri, India’s performance was lackluster. The team lacked creativity and struggled to create scoring opportunities. Afghanistan, ranked 41 places below India in FIFA rankings, capitalized on India’s defensive lapses to secure a smash-and-grab victory.

India’s poor form has raised questions about the effectiveness of head coach Igor Stimac. While Stimac has led the team to some notable victories, including an away win against Kuwait last November, his tactics and player selection have come under scrutiny.

Some critics believe that Stimac has not been able to get the most out of his squad. Several key players, including goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and defender Anwar Ali, have experienced a dip in form. Additionally, there are concerns about the team’s fitness and energy levels.

One potential solution to India’s struggles could be to allow Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) card holders to represent the national team. This would provide India with access to a wider pool of talented players. However, such a move would require a change in government policy, as India currently does not permit OCI card holders to play for the national team.

Despite the recent setbacks, Stimac remains optimistic about India’s chances of qualifying for the third round of the 2026 World Cup qualifiers. He believes that the team can improve its performance with proper preparation and support.

AIFF Technical Committee Unhappy with Stimac After Afghanistan Loss

AIFF Technical Committee Unhappy with Stimac After Afghanistan Loss

The All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) technical committee has expressed dissatisfaction with head coach Igor Stimac following India’s disappointing performance in the recent friendlies against Afghanistan. The committee met on Thursday to discuss the team’s 2-1 home defeat and 0-0 away draw against the lower-ranked opponents.

“Pretty much no one is happy with him after the loss in Guwahati,” said a technical committee member, requesting anonymity. “We have conveyed that.”

The committee’s concerns stem from India’s lackluster displays and failure to secure a win against Afghanistan, who are ranked 41 places below them in the FIFA rankings. This marks the first time India has lost to Afghanistan at home.

The technical committee had previously met with Stimac virtually in February, where they emphasized the importance of positive results in the upcoming FIFA windows in March and June. However, the recent setbacks have raised doubts about Stimac’s ability to deliver.

Removing Stimac immediately would trigger a hefty compensation package, as his contract runs until 2026 and is worth $30,000 per month. AIFF is reportedly exploring options to negotiate an amicable solution with the Croatian coach.

Despite the setbacks, India remains in contention for a place in the third round of the Asian Cup qualifiers. They are currently second in Group A with four points from four games, ahead of Afghanistan on goal difference. A win against Kuwait on June 6 could secure their qualification.

Stimac has previously stated that he will resign if India fails to qualify for the third round. He is expected to leave for home from New Delhi on Friday.

Stimac Sets Resignation Target for India's World Cup Qualification

Stimac Sets Resignation Target for India’s World Cup Qualification

Indian football team head coach Igor Stimac has set a bold target for himself and the team: qualification to the third round of the 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers. Stimac, who has been at the helm since 2019, has made it clear that failure to achieve this goal will result in his resignation.

“If I don’t take India to the third round, I will leave, with my pride, with my honor on everything that was done here in the five years of work,” Stimac declared. “I will leave my position to someone else.”

India’s path to the third round is fraught with challenges. They currently stand second in their group with four points from three games, one ahead of Kuwait. The Blue Tigers have never reached the third round of the Qualifiers before.

Stimac is not deterred by the odds. He believes that the team has the potential to achieve its goal, but it will require hard work and dedication. He has called for longer preparatory camps for the national squad ahead of big tournaments, citing the positive results achieved during previous extended training periods.

“In my four years, there were three long camps that we had,” Stimac said. “One was five years ago right here prior to games against Oman and Qatar, you remember how well the team played that time. Second was for the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers in Kolkata, the team was flying — 3 games, 3 wins, 8-1 goal difference. Third long camp was last year prior to the tournaments that we played brilliantly, could see the intensity and everyone knew what they had to do.”

Stimac also expressed concerns about the lack of Indian strikers in the Indian Super League (ISL), with most of the positions being occupied by foreign players. He believes that this is hurting the national team’s scoring ability.

“Scoring problem has been haunting us for five years, even before I came here,” Stimac said. “I have mentioned that foreign players are occupying scoring positions and that is hurting us.”

Despite the challenges, Stimac remains optimistic about the future of Indian football. He believes that the team has the potential to achieve great things, and he is determined to lead them to success.

Milestone Man Chhetri to Lead India in Crucial World Cup Qualifier Return Leg

Milestone Man Chhetri to Lead India in Crucial World Cup Qualifier Return Leg

Milestone man Sunil Chhetri, India’s all-time leading scorer, will be the cynosure of all eyes as the Blue Tigers seek to overcome their goal-scoring woes in the return leg of the 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifier against Afghanistan on March 26 in Guwahati.

Igor Stimac’s India fired a blank in a disappointing draw in the away leg Group A match in Abha, Saudi Arabia on March 22 against their lower-ranked opponents, extending their goalless run. India last scored a goal in November 2023 against Kuwait.

In this backdrop, it will be imperative from India’s point of view that Chhetri, who will be appearing in his 150th international match, rises to the occasion and makes his landmark game memorable at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium. Having played his first International in 2005, he has so far earned 149 international caps, 93 goals, and 11 trophies for the country. His team would be too happy to see him score one more time, lead them to victory, and brighten their prospects of reaching the third round of the World Cup qualifications, something they have not achieved.

While Chhetri has always looked to deliver what is expected of him, his teammates understand it is not fair to rely only on a 39-year-old talisman. They will need to chip in with useful contributions if the 58th-ranked side is to excel and stay in the reckoning for a place in the third round.

Stimac has prioritized qualification to the third round of World Cup Qualifiers and secure a direct entry into the 2027 AFC Asian Cup. However, with his team coming off a disappointing campaign in the last continental showpiece, the Croatian will be under pressure and will want his wards to show a lot more desperation, composure, and urgency upfront.

The Blue Tigers currently stand second in the group with four points from three games, one ahead of Kuwait, who are on three points from as many matches. India can still advance to the third round, but the task has got a lot tougher following last week’s stalemate, from which they gained only a point. India will need at least four points from their next three matches – against Afghanistan (Tuesday), Kuwait (June 6), and Qatar (June 11) to remain in control of their fate.

Stimac hoped that Chhetri could make his landmark match all the more special with a performance befitting his stature in Indian football. “Being chosen to represent your country is a dream of millions of kids when they start kicking the ball, and to make it 150 times is possible only for the GOATs (greatest of all times),” said Stimac. “We hope our captain will make it memorable on March 26 for all Indian fans and himself.”

Stimac tried out almost all options upfront in the first leg, but they did not work, and a goal eluded the team. He admitted that the team needs improvements in a few areas, especially while attacking, and was not happy with the manner in which his wards complicated things instead of keeping them simple in the final third. “We need to be better in passing, creating chances, and attacking the box when the crosses are coming from the flanks,” he said.

The Blue Tigers had last played in Guwahati five years ago, when they suffered a 1-2 defeat at the hands of Oman in the 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup preliminary joint qualifiers. Match starts at 7pm IST.

India Eyes World Cup Qualifying History in Afghanistan Clash

India Eyes World Cup Qualifying History in Afghanistan Clash

India’s football team is gearing up for their crucial World Cup qualifying matches against Afghanistan, with the aim of securing a spot in the third phase of the qualifiers for the first time. Coach Igor Stimac emphasized the team’s determination to win the upcoming games and progress to the next round.

India will face Afghanistan in back-to-back matches as part of the 2026 FIFA World Cup and 2027 AFC Asian Cup joint qualifiers round 2. The first match will be held in Abha, Saudi Arabia on March 21, while the second will take place in Guwahati, India on March 26.

Stimac acknowledged the team’s disappointing performance at the AFC Asian Cup in January, but stressed that their focus is now on the upcoming qualifiers. “We are not a club that can work with the players on a daily basis,” he said. “The expectations were high without any base.”

India currently stands level on three points with Kuwait in Group A, but has an inferior goal difference. A top-two finish in their group will guarantee progression to Round 3 of the qualifiers, which will also ensure direct qualification for the AFC Asian Cup 2027.

Stimac highlighted the challenges of playing in Abha, which is located at a high altitude of 2,270 meters. “Afghanistan did everything to make it difficult for us,” he said. “Choosing Abha as their home venue was a clever decision.”

Despite the challenges, Stimac expressed confidence in his team’s ability to overcome the obstacles and secure a positive result. “We are going there with a clear mindset, and we’re looking for the points,” he said. “Most of our boys are in decent form at their clubs, and hopefully we can overcome all difficulties and find a way to manage the game in a positive way.”

The Indian team is set to travel to Abha on a chartered plane for their first match against Afghanistan. Stimac believes that the team has the potential to make history by reaching Round 3 of the qualifiers for the first time. “They all have the same dream, so we don’t need to inject any motivation into them,” he said. “We have never made it to Round 3 before, and if we do that, it will then give them new dreams, to qualify for the World Cup in the future.”

AIFF Charters Plane for Men's National Team Ahead of World Cup Qualifier

AIFF Charters Plane for Men’s National Team Ahead of World Cup Qualifier

The All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) decision to charter a plane for the men’s national team three days before its annual general meeting has been hailed as a game-changer. AIFF president Kalyan Chaubey’s assurance to head coach Igor Stimac of a “no-compromise stand” has lifted spirits within the team.

The move comes amidst allegations of financial foul play and cronyism made by a former legal head of AIFF. However, Chaubey has denied these allegations, writing to his executive committee to address the concerns.

The decision to charter a plane for the team’s World Cup qualifier against Afghanistan on March 21 is a significant step towards improving the team’s performance. By flying directly to Abha in Saudi Arabia, the team will avoid the fatigue and potential injuries associated with multiple layovers.

This move demonstrates the AIFF’s commitment to providing the best possible support to the national team. It is a clear indication that the federation is determined to create an environment where the team can thrive and achieve success.

The team’s performance in recent months has been mixed. They have shown flashes of brilliance, but have also struggled to maintain consistency. The decision to charter a plane is a sign that the AIFF is taking steps to address these issues and help the team reach its full potential.

The team’s upcoming World Cup qualifier against Afghanistan is a crucial match. A win would boost their chances of qualifying for the next round of the competition. The AIFF’s decision to charter a plane is a clear indication that they are determined to give the team the best possible chance of success.

Kolkata Favored as Venue for India's Crucial World Cup Qualifier

Kolkata Favored as Venue for India’s Crucial World Cup Qualifier

Igor Stimac, India’s head coach, has expressed his preference for Kolkata as the venue for the crucial World Cup qualifier against Kuwait on June 6. Stimac believes that the city’s passionate football atmosphere would provide a significant advantage for the Indian team.

The Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata has a capacity of over 66,000, and Stimac is eager to utilize the potential of a large and enthusiastic crowd to boost India’s chances of securing a berth in the third round of the 2026 qualifiers. A victory or draw against Kuwait would mark a historic achievement for India, as it would be their first-ever progression to the third round.

Stimac’s preference for Kolkata aligns with the All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) policy of prioritizing the head coach’s recommendations for national team matters. AIFF president Kalyan Chaubey has emphasized that Stimac’s suggestions will be paramount in decision-making.

While Kolkata remains the frontrunner, Hyderabad and a venue in Maharashtra are also in contention to host the match. However, Stimac has indicated that he would prefer to explore new venues only after India qualifies for the third round.

In the event that Kolkata is unable to host the game, Stimac has identified Bengaluru as an alternative venue. India recently triumphed in the SAFF Championship in Bengaluru, and Stimac believes that the city’s positive football environment would be beneficial for the team.

Stimac has also announced a long list of 35 probables for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Afghanistan on March 21 and 26. The list includes several new faces, such as Amey Ranawade, Imran Khan, Isak Vanlalruatfela, and Jay Gupta.

The probables list will be pruned after the Indian Super League pauses for the international break on March 14. Stimac has stated that he may consider adding new players to the squad for the June qualifiers, which include an away game against Qatar.

Stimac emphasized that the rebuilding process for the Indian team will begin after the 2024 Asian Cup. He believes that it is crucial to maintain continuity with the players who have been part of the squad for the past four years.

India Recall Ali, Singh for FIFA World Cup Qualifiers

India Recall Ali, Singh for FIFA World Cup Qualifiers

India’s FIFA World Cup 2026 qualifying campaign has received a boost with the return of key players Anwar Ali and Jeakson Singh. The duo, who missed the recent Asian Cup due to injuries, have been named among 35 probables for the upcoming matches against Afghanistan.

Ali, a central defender, has been out of action for an extended period due to an ankle injury. He also suffered a minor setback in an ISL match last month. Singh, a defensive midfielder, underwent left shoulder surgery in November. Both players have since returned to action for their respective Indian Super League teams.

The inclusion of Ali and Singh strengthens India’s defense, which has been a concern in recent matches. Ali’s experience and leadership will be crucial, while Singh’s ball-winning abilities will provide stability in midfield.

However, India will be without key winger Ashique Kuruniyan, who is still recovering from an ACL injury sustained last year. Kuruniyan’s absence is a blow to India’s attacking options, but the team will hope to compensate with the return of Ali and Singh.

India are aiming to reach the third round of FIFA World Cup qualifiers for the first time in their history. They are currently placed in Group A of the second round, alongside Qatar, Kuwait, and Afghanistan. The top two teams from the group will progress to the third round.

India have a chance to make history after beating Kuwait 1-0 in Kuwait City last year. Head coach Igor Stimac has promised to lead the country to its maiden third round of the FIFA World Cup qualification.

The probables for the Afghanistan matches are as follows:

Goalkeepers: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Amrinder Singh, Phurba Tempa Lachenpa, Vishal Kaith

Defenders: Akash Mishra, Lalchungnunga, Mehtab Singh, Pritam Kotal, Rahul Bheke, Nikhil Chandrashekhar Poojary, Subhasish Bose, Narender, Anwar Ali, Roshan Singh Naorem, Amey Ganesh Ranawade, Jay Gupta

Midfielders: Anirudh Thapa, Brandon Fernandes, Liston Colaco, Mahesh Singh Naorem, Sahal Abdul Samad, Suresh Singh Wangjam, Jeakson Singh Thounaojam, Deepak Tangri, Lalthathanga Khawlhring, Lalengmawia Ralte, Imran Khan

Forwards: Sunil Chhetri, Ishan Pandita, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Manvir Singh, Vikram Partap Singh, Rahul Kannoly Praveen, Nandhakumar Sekar, Isak Vanlalruatfela

National Team Players Face Playing Time Crunch Ahead of World Cup Qualifiers

National Team Players Face Playing Time Crunch Ahead of World Cup Qualifiers

With the Indian Super League (ISL) approaching its mid-season break, concerns are mounting for national team coach Igor Stimac as several key players are struggling for playing time at their clubs.

Among the affected players are Anirudh Thapa, Lalengmawia Ralte (Apuiah), Sahal Abdul Samad, Brandon Fernandes, Udanta Singh, and Pritam Kotal, who collectively boast over 223 international appearances. In the past two rounds, none of these players have completed a full match.

Thapa, a crucial midfielder for Mohun Bagan Super Giant, has not played a full game in the last six rounds. Brandon Fernandes, the FC Goa captain, has failed to score in 892 minutes of play and was omitted from the squad in the team’s last two matches. Udanta Singh has started only one of FC Goa’s last six games.

Ralte has been absent from Mumbai City FC’s squad in the last two rounds, while Rahul KP has not lasted a full game in Kerala Blasters’ last five matches. Sahal Abdul Samad, who picked up an injury, missed Mohun Bagan’s recent match against Jamshedpur FC.

Stimac’s concerns are compounded by the injuries to Sandesh Jhingan and Ashique Kuruniyan. With the World Cup qualifiers against Afghanistan approaching, Stimac may have to consider players who are not currently getting regular minutes at their clubs.

However, head coaches often prefer to stick with players who have lost their starting berths at clubs due to familiarity with the national team’s training and fitness drills. Stimac has previously stated that he would only consider new players after they have maintained their form for a season.

Despite these challenges, Stimac may consider players like Imran Khan of Jamshedpur FC, Isak Vanlalruatfela of Odisha FC, and Amey Ranawade of Odisha FC, who have impressed with their performances this season.

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