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Igor Stimac sacked: Asian Cup horror, failure in FIFA World Cup qualifiers mark a frustrating stint for India head coach | Football News

It was almost inevitable after India’s forgetful outing in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers. Igor Stimac, the Indian men’s team’s head coach, was sacked on Monday, as the All India Football Federation (AIFF) will now begin a hunt for a new face on the touchline in the national team.

Former Indian football head coach Igor Stimac in 2023.(PTI)
Former Indian football head coach Igor Stimac in 2023.(PTI)

Stimac succeeded Stephen Constantine as the head coach of the side in May 2019. It hadn’t been easy to fill the shoes, with Constantine securing India’s qualification for the AFC Asian Cup the same year and also overseeing the team’s brilliant 4-1 win over Thailand in its tournament opener. India were eventually knocked out in the group stage, and Constantine later resigned from his post.

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We take a brief look at Igor Stimac’s stint with the Indian team:

Setback at start

With a focus on bringing a possession-based style of football to the national team, Stimac began his India stint in the Kings’ Cup but faced a shocking 1-3 defeat to a lesser-known Curacao, who eventually went on to win the title. Stimac fielded six debutants in the match, as Curacao ran riot in the Indian defence. India did, however, salvage a 1-0 win over hosts Thailand to finish third in the tournament.

ALSO READ: Igor Stimac likely to get INR 3 crore as compensation after AIFF sacks India head coach

Underwhelming at 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers

India managed only one win in eight matches in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers for the 2022 edition; while a goalless draw against Qatar was celebrated significantly in the Indian football community, it didn’t help that the side failed to secure favourable results against comparatively weaker teams in its group, like Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

In four matches against the two teams, India could win only one, while three ended in draws. Consequently, the team finished third in its group and was knocked out in the second qualifying round.

Asian Cup disappointment and winning streak

Under Stimac, India did enjoy a fruitful run in the Asian Cup qualifiers, defeating all three teams – Hong Kong, Afghanistan, and Cambodia – in their group to qualify for the final event in Qatar. However, the side faltered in the main event in January 2023, failing to register a single win.

India was paired with much higher-ranked Australia, Uzbekistan, and Syria, and while it was expected that the side would face a significant challenge in emerging as a top-2 side in the group, the fans were left hugely disappointed as India failed to notch a single goal throughout the group stage. They conceded six.

However, Stimac steered India forward from the disappointment at the continental event and registered a 12-match winning streak, which comprised international friendlies and the Intercontinental Cup, where India emerged victors at home after defeating Lebanon in the final.

Disappointing 2026 FIFA World Cup qualification and sacking

The 2026 World Cup qualifiers were disappointing for the Indian team, despite a promising start with a 1-0 away win over Kuwait. However, subsequent matches saw India falter, suffering defeats to Qatar and Afghanistan. The team played a goalless draw at home against Afghanistan and was beaten 1-2 in Guwahati, leading to calls for the termination of coach Igor Stimac’s contract.

The situation worsened as India was held to another goalless draw against Kuwait in a must-win scenario. The campaign concluded with a controversial 1-2 defeat to Qatar, sealing Stimac’s fate and bringing an end to a frustrating qualifying run for the Indian team.

Stimac’s tenure as head coach of the Indian football team saw him leading the side in 53 matches. India won 19 matches, drew 14, and lost 20.

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