India to face Lebanon in 3rd-place playoff at King’s Cup after loss to Iraq
The Indian senior men’s football team is gearing up to face Lebanon in the third-place playoff of the 49th King’s Cup after a heartbreaking defeat on penalties to Iraq.
Following a heart-wrenching defeat on penalties to Iraq, the Indian senior men’s football team is preparing to compete against Lebanon in the third-place playoff of the 49th King’s Cup. This encounter will mark the fourth match between the two teams in the last three months.
India managed to maintain a clean sheet in their previous meetings with Lebanon. The series of matches began with a goalless draw in the Intercontinental Cup, followed by a decisive 2-0 victory in the final held in Bhubaneswar. Subsequently, the two sides clashed in the SAFF Championship semifinals, with Igor Stimac’s team emerging victorious in a penalty shootout after 120 goalless minutes.
During the pre-match press conference, coach Igor Stimac acknowledged the familiarity between the two teams, having faced each other frequently in recent times. He expressed that this prior knowledge simplifies the coaching process, as there is no need for extensive analysis of the opposition.
“It’s becoming a regular competition between India and Lebanon, with this being the fourth match in three months. We are well-acquainted with each other. There are no secrets,” remarked Stimac. “As coaches, our job is made easier. There’s no requirement for an in-depth analysis of the opponents. Instead, we focus on our own game, our players, and how to excel on the pitch during the 90 minutes.”
Lebanon’s head coach, Aleksandar Ilic, who is a former club teammate and friend of Stimac, shared similar sentiments. He emphasized that both teams are well-acquainted with each other, which sets the stage for another exciting contest on Sunday.
The recent history of matches between India and Lebanon has created a unique and somewhat unpredictable rivalry. Both teams will aim for victory and redemption, considering India’s triumph over Lebanon in both summer tournaments held in India.
Lebanon’s journey in the King’s Cup took a hit as they suffered a 1-2 defeat to hosts Thailand in the second semifinal. Despite falling behind due to a Jihad Ayoub own goal in the first half, Bassel Jrade managed to equalize for the Cedars soon after halftime. However, a late header by Teerasil Dangda secured the win for Thailand.
India’s semifinal encounter also witnessed late drama, with Aymen Hussein’s equalizing penalty forcing the game into a penalty shootout. Iraq converted all five of their spot-kicks to secure their place in the final. Stimac believed that his team, which had taken the lead twice and displayed valiant defending, deserved a better outcome from the match. Nevertheless, the Indian squad has put the difficult loss behind them and is fully focused on clinching the bronze medal, as they did in Stimac’s debut tournament in 2019.
“I was delighted with the effort and performance of our boys against a higher-ranked team like Iraq. We put up a good fight and led on two occasions. Although Iraq had more quality in their team, we deserved a better outcome from the game. Even with fewer opportunities, we can still score and maximize our performance,” Stimac commented.
Coach Ilic acknowledged India’s growing strength, stating, “The Indian team appears very strong and has shown significant progress. Comparing the past to the present, there is a notable difference. They delivered an excellent performance against Iraq, and we must give them full respect.”
As both teams prepare for their encounter, Stimac encouraged his players to approach the game without undue pressure and to enjoy the beautiful game of football. He expressed a desire for an open and joyful match that celebrates the sport.