Buriram: Indian football head coach Igor Stimac on Wednesday likened his side's performance in the 1-3 defeat to Curacao to fickle weather, referring to the vastly different display by his players in the two halves of the King's Cup match.
Stimac, a World Cup bronze medallist and former Croatia manager, began his stint as India head coach on a losing note, thanks mainly to a sloppy first half in which his charges defended and attacked poorly.
The Caribbean island nation, ranked 19 places higher to India at 82nd, scored thrice in the first half in the space of 18 minutes while captain Sunil Chhetri, who Wednesday became the country's most capped player, struck the lone goal for his side in the 31st minute.
India played a vastly improved football in the second 45 minutes –which was played mostly under rain –but could not score another goal. They made at least four chances in the second half with two coming to the 34-year-old Chhetri whose first attempt hit the upright and the other – another free header –sailing over the bar.
Stimac later compared India's performance to the weather conditions at the Thunder Castle Stadium which saw sunshine during the first half but was lashed by heavy rains in the second 45 minutes.
"We were very much like the weather. At one time the sun was shining, while in the second half there was a storm. After we changed few things in the half-time, we started playing better," he said at the post-match press conference.
"I'm proud of the team especially the manner we played in the 2nd half. I think we had 5-6 good situations in the second half to score our second goal and come back, and put some pressure on them in the last 10 minutes," he added.
Stimac gave international debuts to six players, including 18-year-old India U-17 World Cup captain Amarjit Singh and Raynier Fernandes. He made mention of Amarjit and Fernandes who came in as second half substitutes for their impressive performance.
"The young players who came on showed great character, and had no fear to come on the pitch and playing football. That's what I like. We have a good future. We were controlling much better (in second half) -- the passion, movements, and especially closing down the midfield. That's what we did with two young players, both debutants coming off the bench," he said.
"Fernandes and Amarjit made an impact. Their covering was good. They were coming in front of the big strikers who were creating problems for us. They did not surrender. We did not put our heads down and kept creating chances," the head coach said.
The experienced coach, who even resorted to a three-man backline briefly after trailing by two goals, said the decision making by his attackers was not good in the final third.
"For example, where we were supposed to shoot the ball, we were passing; and when we were supposed to pass the ball, we were shooting. There is a long way for us to keep learning -- the learning process will be long," he said.
"I had said in pre-match press conference that Curacao were the favourites and they displayed in the first 45 minutes that they are of a different class. They have 6-7 top quality players. The match is a good blessing for our players. They could feel the touch of European Academy players among Curacao players -- you can feel in their movements, you can feel in their self-confidence," Stimac said.
India will play for the third place against either Thailand or Vietnam on 8 June.
"We go into another phase now in two weeks' time, get together and prepare for the Hero Intercontinental Cup. We are missing 5-6 players who are very important part of the national teams set-up. As and when they would be back, we would be better.
Updated Date: Jun 05, 2019 20:39:34 IST