SAFF Championship Title not a ‘Special Success’: Igor Stimac
India winning the SAFF Championships for an eighth time is not a ‘special success’ as the country is dominant in the South Asian region, and the bigger aim is to do well at the 2023 Asian Cup qualification, national football team head coach Igor Stimac said on Tuesday. India won the regional tournament after beating Nepal 3-0 in the final in Male on Saturday to hand Stimac his first trophy as the man in-charge of the team.
“I don’t consider it (the SAFF title) as a special success because it is normal that India wins when it goes to SAFF, but it demonstrates that we are very dominant in this competition and we can progress in our game a lot more," Stimac said at a virtual interaction. He, however, admitted that his team was under a lot of ‘result pressure’ after drawing Bangladesh (1-1) and Sri Lanka (0-0) in the first two round-robin league matches.
The results had put India in danger of going out of reckoning for the final. India then beat Nepal 1-0 and hosts Maldives 3-1 in must-win matches before outplaying the Himalayan country 3-0 in the summit clash to stamp their authority. “It was obviously a difficult situation we found ourselves in after the first two matches, but they looked bad only because of the results. There was no big difference in approach, the numbers and statistics. We had enough shoots, scoring chances, movement and energy by players.
“We scored sometimes and didn’t score sometimes, and that made the difference. So, we had a lot of results pressure on our shoulders, but we dealt with it the way it should be and in the end we won the trophy which was really important." Stimac was speaking from Bengaluru after his return from Maldives, and he is leaving for Dubai Tuesday night with the U-23 national team, which he has taken charge of for the 2022 Asian U-23 Championships qualifiers in the UAE from 25 to 31 October.
The Croatian gaffer said that the side’s aim is to make it to the 2023 Asian Cup for which the qualification third round is set to begin early February next year.