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Quality between Syrian and Indian players was the difference: Igor Stimac

Stimac said Khribin is worth 4.5 million euros and the starting 11 of India are worth 2.5 million euros as the Blue Tigers were knocked out by Syria from the AFC Asian Cup.

Igor Stimac Football

India coach Igor Stimac


The Bridge Desk

Updated: 24 Jan 2024 10:05 AM GMT

After India's lacklustre performance at the AFC Asian Cup in Qatar where the Blue Tigers made a group stage exit following its defeat to Syria in the final match, coach Igor Stimac pointed out the gap in quality between the two sides.

Syria defeated India 1-0 in a winner-takes-all match to advance to the Round of 16 at the continental championship along with Australia and Uzbekistan, the two other teams of the group.

Syria won the match in regulation time after Omar Khribin scored a 76th-minute goal defying two Indian players inside the box.

Talking about the match, Stimac said, "The quality between Syrian and Indian players was the difference. Because the No. 7 (Khrbin) who came on the pitch (in the second half), his market value is double the market value of my 11 players."

Khribin, who plied in his trade in the Middle East all through his career, rattled the Indian defence after being introduced in the second half with his clever runs and brilliant sense of positioning.

For the goal he scored, Ibrahim Hesar did excellent work by pressing through the Indian box on the left before unleashing a pass for Khribin, who outsmarted Rahul Bheke before dispatching a low shot past Indian custodian Gurpreet Singh. His goal proved to be the winner as Syria advanced to the knockouts for the first time in its seven appearances at the Asian Cup.

Khribin has been in remarkable form this season with the Abu Dhabi-based Al Wahda club, scoring 12 goals and two assists in 15 games so far, in the top tier of the UAE league.

“On the market, he is worth 4.5 million (euros) and the starting 11 of India are worth 2.5 million (euros). That’s what I mean when we speak about the difference in execution in the final third,” Stimac said.

As India returned home with zero wins, no goals and no points from the AFC Asian Cup, with Blue Tigers losing 0-2 to Australia, 0-3 to Uzbekistan and 0-1 to Syria at the group stage, there is a palpable discontent among the fans.

Addressing the fans, with many thronging the venues for India matches, Stimac wrote on X, "I understand the fans’ frustration and disappointment. We feel the exact same way."

"The boys didn’t perform up to the level I know they are capable of, but I know they gave it their all and I’m proud of them. We need to play at a higher level consistently to be more comfortable and better prepared at these tournaments. Lots to think about and lots to work on. Thank you to all the fans back home and in Qatar. We feel the love and appreciate you all," he added.

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