India coach Igor Stimac is looking to freshen up things for the high-pressure Asian Cup game against Uzbekistan at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium today.
India chose a defensive midfield set-up in their loss to Australia, one of the favourites for the title. But the Croat on Wednesday said India will go with an attacking-mind set against Uzbekistan, who are ranked 68 in the world to Blue Tigers’ 102.
“We are looking for more attacking-minded players because, after analysing the game against Australia, I felt we had many situations where we could, instead of just kicking the ball forward find three players in front of us on the flanks. I was not happy because there was no intention to do that in the second half,” Stimac said on Wednesday
Uzbekistan began their Asian Cup with a goalless draw against Syria and will be eager for a win too. “Uzbekistan is a very good and competitive side. The recent results prove what kind of strength they have. They didn’t win the opening game, which will have them under pressure,” the 56-year-old coach, who was part of the Croatia side that reached the 1998 World Cup semi-finals, said.
“We can expect a high-pressing game from the very first minute. We need to find a way to handle that. But our boys are excited and happy for another opportunity ahead of us.”
The race for the top three spots, however, remains wide open in Group B. The top two teams from each group, along with the four best third-placed teams from the six groups, will book a spot in the last 16, which leaves the doors for qualification wide open. India currently occupy the bottom spot in the group while Syria and Uzbekistan are second and third respectively.
India is without three of its regulars – Ashique Kuruniyan, Anwar Ali and Jeakson Singh – who were ruled out due to injury. Midfielder Sahal Abdul Samad has also failed to get match-fit in time. “Sahal is still not fit. That’s one, and we do have a couple of players with certain problems after the first game. So, changes will be there. I will not name the players who are with the problems obviously, but changes are coming,” Stimac said.
India goalkeeper Amrinder Singh said: “It’s a big game for us tomorrow, and we are looking forward to it. We have studied what Uzbekistan did in the game against Syria, prepared our own strategies, and are ready for the game.”
The gloveman, who is always in competition for the number one shirt with Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, feels that they feed off the competition between each other to remain at the top level. “Of course, there can only be one spot, but Gurpreet and I share a healthy competition, which motivates both of us to keep improving,” said Amrinder, who last featured in the World Cup Qualifier against Qatar.
There was a crowd of over 36,000 at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium for the India-Australia game on Saturday, most of them Indians. Stimac is hoping for an even bigger turnout of Blue Tigers fans against Uzbekistan. “We are expecting a huge number, an even bigger number now in this match,” Stimac said.
The game against Australia kicked off at 2pm but it is a later start time of 5:30pm against Uzbekistan. “It’s a much better kickoff time, much more convenient for fans to attend the match,” he said.
Uzbekistan coach Srecko Katanec wants his side to not hold back. “Normally when you’re playing a stronger team on paper, it is logical that the game will be tough for you,” said Katanec, who guided Slovenia to the 2000 European Championship and 2002 World Cup.
“We will try to do something on the field but the game will be completely different. India are strong and aggressive and we have to find spaces and do our best. We have to be patient during the 90 minutes and we shall see how it goes. I’m taking it game by game and I know we have to win tomorrow to advance into the next stage and this is the main target for us. We must try our best to win the game, I’m confident we can achieve that,” the 60-year-old, who represented both Yugoslavia and Slovenia in his playing days, said.