Kings Cup 2019: Can Igor Stimac lead Indian football to glory?
The club circuit of Indian football might be in a constant state of confusion currently, but that does not deter the national team from continuing their upsurge. After an inspiring performance in the AFC Asian Cup at the start of this year, it is time for their next major international tournament as the side readies itself for the Kings’ Cup starting from 5th June 2019.
More importantly, it embarks the journey of Igor Stimac as India’s head coach. The position that the Croatian has encapsulated has seen plenty of confusion due to the team’s indifferent performances over the past few years under the stewardship of former coach Stephen Constantine. Various factors ranging from quality players not being selected in the squad for a considerable period of time, overtly defensive style of play and revolving captaincy policy saw tremendous criticism against the Englishman.
The outrage had somewhat reached its saturation point after the group stage exit from the Asian Cup, though, such a performance was expected to an extent from an Indian team that had quite less exposure to such tournaments comprising of some well-oiled, higher quality oppositions. Stimac’s appointment was welcomed warmly by most of the avid Indian football observers, as his track record suggests astuteness and a history of an incredible experience with some notably talented teams.
To be honest, one does not need to go overboard with the fact that the current Indian coach has managed the incumbent Ballon d’Or winner Luka Modric in the past; with the All India Football Federation even using an image of the duo to announce Stimac’s arrival in the Indian football scene! However, hiring a man carrying such incredible qualitative managerial experience is always a benefit.
The Kings’ Cup squad selection…
Now to begin with the squad selection, Stimac seems to be doing a pretty good job at it.
India’s performance in the Asian Cup earlier this year was a testament to the fact that there was an utmost, urgent necessity to influx some younger talents into the squad. Not from a player quality perspective, but the squad tended to lack multiple footballers with versatile demeanors, people who were accustomed to playing in high-octane competitions without their work-rate taking a dump in the fag end of the matches.
So for the King’s Cup, Stimac announced the induction of six newcomers in the 23-man squad, a couple of them whose initiation into the squad was long overdue. The list includes Rahul Bheke, Brandon Fernandes, Raynier Fernandes, Michael Soosairaj, Abdul Sahal, and India U-17 World Cup team captain Amarjit Singh.
To take into consideration, someone like Bheke was excruciatingly ignored throughout Constantine’s reign, despite him being possibly better than most of the alternatives that the team has in the defensive department. Similarly, for Soosairaj, a midfielder whose work-ethic and creativity has been so widely applauded by anyone who follows the Indian Super League consistently, to be out of the national side for no justifiable reason seemed rather unfair at times.
Stimac’s strategies need to be innovative…
However, squad-selection is only the first step of this jigsaw puzzle that is Indian football. A dire, tiresome and outdated footballing philosophy that Constantine employed during his helm was one of the main factors that rubbed off the Indian fans from this team. More crucially, there were occasions during the Asian Cup when it became apparent that the Indian team looked a far better side whenever they dared to play with the ball at their feet; that is, a more expansive brand of football suited the playing style of the most of the players on the field.
Still, thumping balls over to two 5”8’ tall strikers had become a norm, a notion that even the most esteemed footballing brains failed to decipher.
— Indian Football Team (@IndianFootball) June 4, 2019
Hence, when Sandesh Jhingan said, “The coach has brought in his new system. We are playing more with the ball now — more of an attacking side of football. With the success we have had before, players are motivated. They believe they can do more. Everyone is hungry for more success”, it must have been like a fresh breath of air for most of the footballing enthusiasts in the country.
Honestly speaking, most of us are aware of how long it takes to build a comprehensively successful football side that follows a peculiarly particular philosophy to the core. It is going to take time, sure. The only thing that the masses would be keen to witness is at least a positive ideology, a constructively productive process that promises greener pastures in the future.
As long as Igor Stimac brings that into play, we are ready to wait.