I don't look at rankings, have respect for Cambodia: Indian football team head coach Igor Stimac
Indian team head coach Igor Stimac refused to read much into their higher ranking on the eve of the Asian Cup Qualifiers, saying it doesn't matter in present day football.
KOLKATA: Indian team head coach Igor Stimac refused to read much into their higher ranking on the eve of the Asian Cup Qualifiers, saying it doesn't matter in present day football.
Eyeing a second straight Asian Cup qualification and fifth overall, 106th ranked India start as favourites and rank way higher than their three group D opponents in Cambodia, Afghanistan and Hong Kong.
"I respect every opposition. I don't look at rankings. Cambodia didn't come here to participate, they came with the same desire to win the game," Stimac said on the eve of their group opener.
"When India were down 180 in rankings, we went to win the games and not lose them. I would also have more respect for each opponent. I'd never say we can win against anyone easily. That would be disrespectful. We need to be ready, hungry and fully motivated for these games."
"There's no easy game anymore. That was some 50 years ago. From 100 positions until 180-200, there is a very small margin and difference in quality," he added.
The Croat, whose contract has been extended till the end of the Asian Cup Qualifiers, faces a big test as he outlined his strategy to press for an early goal.
"I'd say that we have prepared for any case scenario, but we intend to press for the first minute of the game and put Cambodia under high pressure.
"We need to prove that we are favourites and we need to control as well as be ready to handle the counter-attacks. I'd say we are ready for that."
Not worried about friendlies results
India's build-up to the Qualifiers has been far from impressive as they have lost three of their four practice matches, while the one against Zambia was cancelled.
Of the three losses, India have scored once against Bahrain (1-2) and the other two were lopsided defeats to Belarus (0-3) and Jordan (0-2).
Pointing out that he missed star Indian forward Sunil Chhetri in two matches, Stimac said: "I'm never worried about the friendly games, less worried than you.
It's a learning process.
It's more important how we do in these official games.
"Once we started together, we were very clear on what we needed to do in the future. We were clear that we needed to make sure that India participates in every edition of the AFC Asian Cup. These are the steps in football in our progress to make the World Cup."
Fit-again Jhingan upbeat
All eyes would be on defender Sandesh Jhingan, who made a comeback during their match against Jordan, after a long injury layoff.
"You have seen me play in the AFC Cup. Nothing changes much," said Jhingan.
Seen as a future India captain, the 28-year-old centre back however does not still consider his place "permanent" in the team.
"No one has a permanent place in the XI. The quality of competition is so high these days. You need to work very hard every day in training to earn the right to play."
"To play in the Asian Cup is massive and to qualify it on home soil at Kolkata is amazing. The experience in Kolkata is massive. Playing in front of a packed stadium is the stuff of dreams for us. The more the fans come, the better for us," he said.
Bheke to miss out
India will miss their right back Rahul Bheke, who is out with an injury, the coach said.
"Apart from Rahul, everyone is available for us. He's been out with a minor injury for the last 11 days," Stimac said.