Forget about FIFA rankings, says Stimac on eve of SAFF Championship opener

Bengaluru, Jun 20 (PTI) India coach Igor Stimac on Tuesday warned his side against getting tricked by the relatively lower FIFA rankings of other teams in Group A going into the SAFF Championship 2023, and urged the Blue Tigers not to lose their intensity.

India have been drawn with Pakistan, Nepal and Kuwait in Group A in the tournament. India will open their campaign against Pakistan on Wednesday here at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium.

“Forget about the FIFA rankings! All the teams in our group and in general in the tournament are very special. All four teams are quite efficient and can produce different kind of football. The crowd will love it as there will be a lot of goals. We have a very serious group and some tough opponents,” said Stimac during the pre-match press conference.

Stimac did not deny the fact that the Indian team’s confidence is high after winning the Intercontinental Cup on Sunday, beating Lebanon 2-0.

“The mood in the camp is bright after our win in the Intercontinental Cup. We can be happy. As the coaching staff, we only can show the team how to win the match and once they enter the field, it is entirely up to the players how to do it,” he said.

Despite the stirring victory in the Intercontinental Cup, Stimac said India cannot take Pakistan lightly as they could be a dangerous opponent.

“They could be the surprise package of the tournament. They have a very good team, and it does not matter that they have not got the results going their way recently.

“They played three matches (in the Four-Nation Cup) recently without much practice and they could be very competitive here. We know the strong and weak points of the teams and we need to work on them,” he said.

Stimac said the team will have to get used to the conditions in Bengaluru very soon as the experience in Odisha was vastly different.

“We are coming here from (Odisha) temperature soaring over 40 degrees, 48 degrees at times. We don’t have much time but we need to get used to the cooler conditions in Bengaluru, lovely for football, and need to train on the artificial surface with slow movements,” he added.

The Intercontinental Cup triumph was India’s first victory over Lebanon in 46 years and that skipper and No. 1 striker Sunil Chhetri managed to etch his name on the score sheet would boost the team’s morale.

The Indian team would hope for Chhetri to continue in the same vein in the SAFF Championship as well.