Describing India’s inability to score goals as “an old problem,” head coach Igor Stimac said on Tuesday the team couldn’t depend on a single player to find the opposing net, apparently making it reference to the talismanic striker Sunil Chhetri.
India have so far scored two goals in the current SAFF Championships and both have passed through 37-year-old Chhetri, who tied the legendary Pelé with his 77th goal in the game against Nepal.
“I’m pretty happy with our performance in the last three games – the way we played, the number of possessions. We dominated them and our goalkeeper wasn’t too bothered, ”Stimac said at the press conference ahead of India’s final round robin match against the Maldives.
“But there is an old problem that follows us and that is the conversion of chances. We cannot depend on one player and have to be more confident in front of goal, ”he added.
Currently in third place with five points from three matches, India needs nothing less than a win over the Maldives to account for the regional tournament final.
A draw or loss will knock out India and it will be the worst result for the country in recent memory, which could also cast doubt on Stimac’s continued leadership.
Seven-time champion India’s worst performance before this edition was third place in 2003 and the country has won or finished second in 11 previous editions.
We know what we need to do tomorrow, says Stimac ahead of India’s clash against the Maldives 🇲🇻
– Indian Football Team (@IndianFootball) 12 October 2021
“The situation is a little easier for the Maldives as they only need a draw, and therefore it is clear what we need to do in tomorrow’s game,” said the Croatian.
The head coach said the victory against Nepal had boosted the confidence of his players.
“The best motivation is to win games. It was not easy to have two consecutive draws in the first two games. So it was kind of a relief for all the players to beat Nepal. They needed trust.
“Actually, they deserved to win all three games, but in football you can’t win unless you score goals.”
Speaking of the opposition team, he said: “The Maldives are a much improved team. They are more compact than before. They put more emphasis on football based on passing and possession. They create chances and their moves are great right off the bat. “
“There is a reasonable understanding between (star striker) Ali Ashfaq and the others. They know how to move when Ashfaq has the ball, and he knows where they are running without even looking at them.
“But how they are going to play also depends on us, how much we let them play. If my midfielders and defenders do what I expect them to do, the Maldives shouldn’t be able to play much.
Stimac said Wednesday’s game will see two great veterans on the pitch – Ashfaq for Maldives and Chhetri for India.
“It’s a joy to see them play, and if they played for the same team it would have been a great combination for any coach.”