Indian men's football team head coach Igor Stimac took to X (formerly known as Twitter) to lavish praise upon his players for the extraordinary measures they went to in order to prepare and compete in the ongoing Asian Games, being held in Hangzhou, China.
Stimac mentioned how the players had to sleep at an airport and complete their activation and recovery sessions in parks in China. This was reportedly caused due to a lack of foresight from Indian officials.
India could not send their full-strength team to the Games as it is an Under-23 event, with three overage players allowed to play in the starting lineup. Skipper Sunil Chhetri, veteran Sandesh Jhingan and Hyderabad FC's star defender Chinglensana Singh have usually been the three 'seniors' in the starting lineup.
India qualified for the Round of 16 stage of the Asian Games for the first time in thirteen years after drawing against Myanmar in their final group stage game on Sunday with a 1-1 scoreline. Chhetri scored the lone goal for India from the spot.
In his tweet, Stimac wrote:
"From completing their sleep in airports, to activation/ recovery sessions in parks in China, I wanted to personally show my appreciation to all my players here at the Asian Games. These boys are thorough professionals and doing everything they can to make India proud."
"Against all odds, we have obtained our primary goal of qualifying for the last 16 and these players deserve all your love and praise."
India will take on Saudi Arabia in the Round of 16 stage
India will face off against Asian giants Saudi Arabia on September 28 at the Huanglong Sports Centre Stadium, Hangzhou in the Round of 16. The 102nd ranked Blue Tigers are likely to face a tough challenge against the 57th ranked side on Thursday.
India qualified as the second-placed team in Group A, which consisted of China, Myanmar, and Bangladesh. Saudi Arabia finished second in Group B, where they were placed alongside Iran, Vietnam, and Mongolia.
Saudi Arabia have a host of top-quality midfielders who will give India a run for their money. Stimac's side, however, will rely heavily upon the likes of Rahim Ali, Bryce Miranda, Abdul Rabeeh and Rahul KP to give them a fighting chance. The seniors in the eleven will have to be at their best as well.