Indian Football: 3 Deserving Players who could be called up for national team by new coach Igor Stimac
The All India Football Federation (AIFF) finally made the appointment of coach Igor Stimac official on Wednesday, recruiting him on a two-year contract.
The Croatian takes over from Englishman Stephen Constantine, who quit following India's unceremonious exit from the Asian Cup 2019 in January.
Stimac had a stellar playing career for Croatia as a defender, finishing third in the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France. He also won the 1987 FIFA World Youth Championship with Yugoslavia in Chile.
Stimac has previously coached the Croatian national team from 2013-14, guiding them into the final stages of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. However, Stimac's record as a coach has not been that splendid of late. He had spells which turned sour with Sepahan SC (Iran) and Al-Shahania (Qatar) before being appointed the India coach.
During his tenure as the Croatia coach, Stimac handed debut to the likes of Mateo Kovacic (Chelsea winger on loan from Real Madrid), Ante Rebic (Eintracht Frankfurt forward), Alen Halilovic (Standard Liège midfielder on loan from Inter Milan) and Ivan Perisic (Inter winger).
Stimac's predecessor Constantine too promoted the youth to a great extent, hand about 49 debuts to Indians from 2015-2019. However, the Englishman was often criticised for his selections and was called out for ignoring in-form players especially during the later stage of his stint.
This year, the Indian national team will play in the King's Cup in Thailand from June 5-8, the Intercontinental Cup from July 7-17 and then the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers in September. Stimac will be expected to be pragmatic in his approach and will certainly call up a few deserving players that Constantine was accused of ignoring.
Here are three of those players who deserve to be called up:
#3 Brandon Fernandes (FC Goa)
There's no dearth of flashy wingers in India and Brandon Fernandes was one of those unlucky players not to have been called up by the previous coach.
A mainstay at FC Goa, Fernandes reached the final of the Indian Super League (ISL), losing narrowly to Bengaluru FC in the summit clash. The team made amends by lifting the Super Cup the very next month with Fernandes' performances in both these tournaments receiving plaudits from fans and experts.
The record of 3 goals and 4 assists in the ISL hides the contribution Fernandes has made to the side, which scored the most number of goals in the tournament at 41. Fernandes was always a threat on the left wing and his link-up play with the ISL golden boot winner Ferran Corominas made Goa a dangerous force in Indian Football.
Stimac, who claims to have followed the ISL a lot, may just be tempted to call him up for the King's Cup tournament.