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'Great effort by our boys': Igor Stimac hails Blue Tigers despite defeat vs Australia

Stimac is happy with his team's overall performance against defending champion Australia, but he is unhappy with the goals India conceded that resulted in its defeat.

Igor Stimac Football

India coach Igor Stimac


The Bridge Desk

Updated: 14 Jan 2024 7:26 AM GMT

India went down 0-2 in its AFC Asian Cup opening Group B match against Australia on Saturday at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, but the Blue Tigers' resilient show impressed head coach Igor Stimac. REPORT

After a closely fought first half, Australia managed to break the deadlock through a Jackson Irvine goal in the 50th minute before Jordan Bos doubled up the lead in the 73rd minute after coming on as a substitute.

"Great effort by our boys and valuable experience earned. We held them to a point of frustration throughout the first half and it was sad to concede such a goal after defending so many set pieces brilliantly," Stimac wrote on X on Sunday.

“We expected a very difficult match for us with the physicality of Australia and suffering from the corners that were coming, especially from the right side. But overall, there is positivity with regards to the performance," the Croatian coach of India said at the post-match press conference.

India played the match in a home environment as a large portion of the 36000-plus crowd cheered Sunil Chhetri and the boys.

India could have taken the lead had Chhetri not missed a brilliant chance as he sent his header wide. Australia took control of the game soon after and enjoyed possession.

However, Stimac is unhappy with the goals India conceded.

"I’m not so happy with the result at the end because both goals came out of sloppy reactions. These goals didn’t come out of Australia’s brilliant display or action; it came just because of our irresponsibility at certain times," Stimac conveyed during the post-match press conference.

For the first goal, minutes after half-time, Indian keeper Gurpreet Singh failed to deal with a cross, with his tame effort to palm it away falling to Irvine in the box who pounced to score.

The goal took the wind out of India’s sails and Australia capitalised with a second in the 73rd minute when Riley McGree dribbled into the box and cut a pass back to Bos to score seconds after coming on.

Speaking of India's defensive approach in the game, Stimac said, “We couldn’t get out of that zone where we were just not capable of making that second pass and going over the half-line, on which we have been working really hard. These actions were missing there. The experience of Australian players was holding back this situation because they were better game readers and quicker in their reactions, especially when dealing with second balls."

The coach, meanwhile, hailed 24-year-old defensive midfielder, Deepak Tangri, who marked his debut for India.

“Deepak Tangri was brilliant in the training sessions and the most confident midfielder we have at the moment in passing, taking action, responsibility, and attitude. Everything was spot on, and that’s why he earned his position in the first 11," Stimac said.

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