Indian football showcased its future plans under Igor Stimac with a fighting defeat against Curacao in the opener of King's Cup in Thailand. The Blue Tigers bowed their head to a 3-1 scoreline at the end of 90 minutes.
Luis Bonevacia opened the scoring for Curacao in the 15th minute with a cool shot from inside the box. In less than three minutes, Quincy Hooi made the best use of a weak offside trap to increase the tally. However, India showed glimpses of a comeback through a penalty goal in the 30th minute. The reward for Sahal Abdul Samad being fouled in the penalty area was converted well by skipper Sunil Chhetri. Curacao didn't wait to respond as Leandro Bacuna slashed in the third goal into Gurpreet Singh's post, in the 33rd minute.
Even after a disappointing performance in the first half, Stimac regrouped his boys well to improve the second 45 minutes.
India will now face the loser of the second game between Thailand and Vietnam on 8 June, for the third position in the King's Cup.
Despite the defeat, the team does have plenty of positives to take out from the manager's debut. Here, we look at 5 talking points from India's valuable encounter against Curacao.
#5 Six players making their international debut for India
Igor Stimac started off his stint with India on a very confident note. He had called-up the best performers in recent times to his squad flying to Thailand. The 23-man-squad had a total of 6 new faces in the national camp. Surprisingly, Stimac opted to grant three of them a start for the game and the other three were introduced in the second half.
The first XI had Rahul Bheke, Sahal Abdul Samad and Brandon Fernandes making their international debuts. While Bheke joined Sandesh Jhingan as a center-back, Sahal was slotted in the attack behind Sunil Chhetri. Brandon Fernandes started as a central midfielder alongside Pronay Halder.
Stimac extended this list by adding Amarjit Singh and Raynier Fernandes at the beginning of the second half. Both became handful for the Indian attack in the remaining time. The final debutant in the squad, Michael Soosairaj wore the Indian jersey in the 67th minute, replacing Brandon Fernandes.
The Croatian manager has encouraged the new faces in the international arena. This looks like a positive factor for Indian football, who have been accustomed to 'manager favourites'. The lineup was surely a ray of hope for many Indian players still waiting for a call-up to the national team.