Coach Igor Stimac expects India to spring surprises in Merdeka tournament
Indian Football Team faces Malaysia in the Festival of Independence opener, ready to spring surprises despite the host’s advantage.
The Indian Football Team is set to face Malaysia in the opening match of the Festival of Independence, locally known as the Pestabola Merdeka, at the Bukit Jalil Stadium in Kuala Lumpur on Friday.
On the eve of the Malaysia match, Indian head coach Igor Stimac expressed his respect for Malaysia’s recent strong performances. He acknowledged Malaysia’s solid team under the guidance of a capable coach and a blend of talented local and naturalized players. Malaysia has enjoyed a successful year with six wins, two draws, and just one defeat in their nine international matches.
Stimac commented, “In the first game, the advantage seems to be with Malaysia, considering they are on their home turf and their recent good run. However, we are here with the intent to surprise them.”
He further elaborated, “Both teams have stable, competitive sides with clear strategies on the field. Despite this, with a home crowd of 90,000 and our less-than-ideal away record, the advantage may tilt in favor of Malaysia.”
The Indian Football Team is well aware of the significance and history of the Pestabola Merdeka, having participated in the tournament 17 times. However, they are also mindful of the upcoming FIFA World Cup Qualifiers against Kuwait and Qatar in November.
Stimac emphasized, “We understand the history and importance of this tournament, and we are determined to win both matches and lift the trophy for the first time. But we must also be cautious of the challenges ahead.”
He continued, “Avoiding injuries is crucial as we have two vital World Cup Qualifiers in November. Being in Pot 2 of the draw for the World Cup Qualifiers gives us a great chance to advance to Round 3 for the first time, which is of utmost importance to us.”
Stimac praised the team’s unity and strength demonstrated over the past few months, with three consecutive tournament wins: the Tri-Nation Cup, the Intercontinental Cup, and the SAFF Championship.
“I believe our team’s unity and strength will be advantageous against Malaysia. We have participated in highly competitive tournaments and proven our growth. After winning three tournaments at home, it’s time to improve our away performance,” he stated.
Indian centerback Sandesh Jhingan expressed his excitement about the match against Malaysia and the significance of the Merdeka Tournament. Malaysia held special memories for him from his school days when he first ventured abroad to play football.
Young centerback Anwar Ali shared his optimism, saying, “It’s going to be a challenging match against a formidable opponent, especially in front of their home fans. However, we have faith in our team, and we will give our best to secure a victory and advance to the final.”