India’s young Hormipam, Anwar likely to get game time against Belarus in friendly

Published on Mar 25, 2022 04:02 PM IST

Conceding two goals at far post not acceptable, says India coach Igor Stimac as he reviews defeat to hosts Bahrain and previews Saturday’s game against Belarus.

India next play Belarus in another international friendly on March 26. (AIFF)
India next play Belarus in another international friendly on March 26. (AIFF)
By, Kolkata

For Igor Stimac, friendlies are not opportunities to get clever with set-pieces. They are instead a chance to learn to play out from the back, improve reaction time after losing the ball, be alert to the possibility of committing to break up a counter-attack, be more creative in attack and, by extension, shake off the mentality to aimlessly hoof the ball up the park. 

The India head coach touched on all these ahead of Saturday's game against Belarus, “who would be a level higher than Bahrain”, and who “prefer counter-attacking football but that won’t be their approach against us,” said Stimac. 

The positive for the Croat is that he has “more creative options” available in midfielders such as Anirudh Thapa, Jeakson Singh and Brandon Williams. Thapa and Williams reached a couple of hours before the kick-off against Bahrain. Stimac said central defenders Anwar Ali and Ruivah Hormipam too could be used in the friendly where each team can make six substitutions. 

Sandhu's 50th 

The game will be Gurpreet Singh Sandhu’s 50th for India. Among the tasks the coaching staff set for themselves is to get India’s No 1 goalkeeper - and one of the best in Asia, according to Stimac - back to his best. Sandhu’s confidence would be buoyed by the penalty he saved against Bahrain. After the game on Wednesday, Sandhu said Stimac had told him to dive to his left. On Friday, the coach explained why. 

“From our analysis, we saw that for the past couple of years, he has shot in that direction. So I reminded Gurpreet of that,” said Stimac at the virtual media interaction. Sandhu did “a pretty good job with the crosses (against Bahrain) when he could. He now has to work on his build-up play, his passing.”

He praised the attitude shown in the 1-2 loss, “Rahim Ali’s tremendous work” and “young Roshan (Singh) who showed that his ISL form was not a one-off.” But he was critical of India’s defending, saying, “conceding two goals at the far post is not acceptable.” India were also “slow and relaxed after losing the ball.” 

And they couldn't consistently use the middle and high press. “On the five or six times we did, we couldn't put the ball behind the defence, instead gave them (Bahrain) good training." 

“We were out of energy in the last 10 minutes. That is the difference between ISL and an international game,” he said. Stimac said he understood that the players were “mentally exhausted” from staying in the ISL bio-bubble but they would need to get used to the greater intensity of these games. To that end, more young players will help, he said. 

“We will have to suffer, but in the end we will come out winners.”

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Dhiman Sarkar is based in Kolkata with over two decades as a sports journalist. He writes mainly on football.

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