We are preparing to pack a few more surprises: head coach Igor Stimac

We are preparing to pack a few more surprises: head coach Igor Stimac

With four points from three matches, which also included a win against Bangladesh and a loss to hosts China, India made it to the pre-quarterfinals as the runners-up team from Group A and will now meet Saudi Arabia on September 28.

HANGZHOU: Following India’s advancement to the pre-quarterfinals of the 19th Asian Games, securing the second position in Group A, head coach Igor Stimac hinted at the team having additional surprises up their sleeves.

With four points from three matches, which also included a win against Bangladesh and a loss to hosts China, India made it to the pre-quarterfinals as the runners-up team from Group A and will now meet Saudi Arabia on September 28.

“We can now concentrate on the Saudi Arabia game. We can now have two days of good training. Saudi are a good team, all of us know about it. But we will fight it out on the pitch. We surprised lots of people by reaching the last 16. Maybe we have some more surprises in store. Who knows,” said Stimac.

On Sunday, India withstood a strong challenge from Myanmar to make the grade with a 1-1 draw. Stimac feels his team could have walked out with full points instead of settling for one.

“It was an interesting game and was fought hard. We knew Myanmar would be tough, as they too were looking for a place in the next round. They were not ready to leave an inch, they were quick and were coming well on the counter-attacks. But my boys stood firm and thwarted all the attacks. “I am happy that we could make the last 16 under circumstances that were not always in our favour. All credit goes to the boys for playing with such determina-tion. We could have killed the game earlier as we missed some chances,” rued the coach.

After taking the lead in the 23rd minute off a penalty converted by skipper Sunil Chhetri, India had a series of chances in the second half. Gurkirat Singh and Rahim Ali had opportunities in front of the rival goal, but they went begging.

Asked about Chhetri’s performance in the 270 minutes he played in the Asian Games with two goals to his cred-it, Stimac laughed, “Chhetri played the entire duration of the three matches because he wanted to play, he didn’t want to come out. That’s what my captain is. Even when there were problems in the midfield, he was coming down to organise things and provide the passes for the attack. His commitment is amazing,” the head coach said.

Despite the lack of preparation and training time because of domestic commitments, the head coach said that his boys did a wonderful job and he was proud of them. He also looked at the positive side of the Asian Games campaign.

“The biggest positive from the three matches was that I could spot a few boys who could be part of the National team in the near future. They have performed creditably in the three matches here so far. That’s always a great takeaway for a coach,” said Stimac. (IANS)

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