As India became the fourth nation in 2019 to keep a clean slate against Asian champions Qatar, that too in an away match, the players in unison credited the result to current Head Coach of the Indian National Football Team Igor Stimac.
Stimac who coached Croatia to qualify for the FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014 took charge of the Blue Tigers in May 2019, while as a player, he was part of the golden generation of Croatian squad which finished third in the FIFA World Cup.
'Stimac has changed everything,' players say in unison
Mandar Rao Desai credited Stimac for bringing back the "positive vibes" in the dressing room which made a “great difference.”
"The coach did a lot of research on the opponents and gave us a lot of short videos to watch, and prepare. We watched them perhaps a million times,” Mandar informed. “At every step, he was there to guide us.”
"After the Oman result, it was not easy to play against Qatar. However, Coach motivated us all the time. He brought in a lot of positivity which was so crucial as everyone was low on morale,” he explained. “That’s what good coaches are capable of – lifting up the spirits with their belief, and confidence.”
Current AIFF Men’s Emerging Footballer of the Year 2018-19 Abdul Sahal, who was omnipresent in the midfield initiating, and intercepting stated “we played as a team.”
“This is quite unbelievable,” he went on. "All the boys are really happy for the coach. He has brought in a lot of changes to our game. We understand we have to do more, and we will surely do more.”
"We defended well in the first half. That was important as we were facing the best team in Asia. At the interval, the coach told us to come out and attack, and enjoy our football. That motivated us further. We played it around, and stretched them while maintaining our shape all throughout.”
Midfielder Anirudh Thapa highlighted the result as the “most memorable moment for him in his career in an Indian jersey.”
"This has to rank at the top. Qatar are an extraordinary side and this was a qualifier match as well which makes the result even sweeter for us. I'm glad that we could come here to their home and return with points," he said.
“The coach has changed everything – things we do on and off the pitch. We are all so happy for him. I am happy we were able to make him proud with our performance. He guided, and helped us to achieve this.”
Central defender Adil Khan, who led by example couldn’t hide his emotions while looking back at the match. "Playing a team as strong as Qatar who have won all their matches against Asian sides in 2019, and not conceding a goal is special. The credit for the result goes to the entire team.”
"Stimac is building a good team. We are making good progress under him. I hope more and more fans start believing in him after this performance," he mentioned. "I can't control my emotions. I am getting goose bumps even thinking of the result. The self-belief in the team defines everything. I was in the National Team some seven years back, but it is a different set-up now,” he quipped, as his eyes became moist.
Coach Stimac has given India confidence: Renedy Singh
Former Indian footballer Renedy Singh, while praising India lavishly for holding Qatar to a draw, on Wednesday said the team has created a history.
"It was a very good match. They defended really well. We all are proud of the way they played," Goal.com quoted Singh as saying.
"We have to remember we were playing the Asian champions, who beat Japan and South Korea easily. We played against the best team in Asia. We created history," he added.
Singh also eulogized coach Igor Stimac for doing a 'great job'.
"This coach is doing a great job and the players are showing that on the ground. They are not just kicking away the ball. They are trying to maintain possession," Singh said.
"Even against Qatar, playing against the champions they tried to play from the back. The coach has given them confidence. So, the credit must go to him along with the players," he said.
Dear India, that's my team & those are my boys: Sunil Chhetri
India captain Sunil Chhetri is extremely proud of the way the Blue Tigers fought valiantly against Qatar and held the Asian champions to a goal-less draw. Chhetri, who could not take part in the crucial Tuesday match because of fever, took to Twitter to express his joy after India earned their first points in the ongoing qualifiers.
"Dear India, that is my team and those are my boys! Cannot describe how proud I am at this moment. Not a big result for the table, but in terms of a fight, as big as it can get. Huge credit to the coaching staff and the dressing room," Chhetri tweeted.
Indian goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, who was unbeatable under the bar as he led the team to a famous draw against Qatar, was also proud of the way his team performed against the Asian Champions. "I feel extremely proud of the team for our performance against Qatar. The team-effort helped us achieve the result. It will help us immensely in the qualifiers," Sandhu was quoted as saying by All India Football Federation
While Qatar are still leading the pack with four points from two matches, India are currently at the fourth spot with one point from two matches. India will host Bangladesh in their next match of the qualifiers on October 15.
With AIFF & Agency Inputs