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Igor Stimac: From trophies to getting sacked; Check Croatian's stay as Indian football coach

Igor Stimac's five-year association came to an end with the Indian team after the All India Football Federation sacked him from the role of head coach. Stimac could not take India into the dream third round of the FIFA World Cup 2026 qualifiers. Here's the timeline of Stimac's stay with India.

Written By: Varun Malik @varunm0212 New Delhi Published on: June 18, 2024 16:35 IST
Igor Stimac sacked, India football team, AIFF
Image Source : INDIA TV The timeline of Igor Stimac's stay with the Indian football team.

Igor Stimac on Monday was sacked from his role as the Indian football team's head coach by the All India Football Federation (AIFF). Stimac, who assumed the top role with Sunil Chhetri's men, has led the Indian team to several trophies in his five-year regime.

But the termination came after the Indian team failed to make it to the third round of the FIFA World Cup 2026 qualifiers, after finishing third in Group A. The Blue Tigers bottled up their chances of making it to the third round, which they had never reached before. Here's a timeline of Stimac's stay with the Indian team.

Appointed in 2019: Stimac, the former Croatian who won the Bronze medal with his national team in 1998, was appointed as the Indian coach in May 2019. He replaced the outgoing Stephen Constantine, who led India to a thumping 4-1 win over Thailand in the Asian Cup before two draws against UAE and Bahrain.

FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifiers: The first big test was the FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifiers. India got a bye for the second round due to their higher rankings. They were in a group featuring Qatar, Oman, Afghanistan and Bangladesh in Group E.

The Indians defeated only Bangladesh 2-0 in their eight outings, lost three and played four draws. The most notable result for them was the goalless draw against Qatar at their den in Doha. But India could not reach the third round.

The 2021 SAFF Championship win: Then came the first title under Stimac's reign. He led India to the 2021 SAFF Championship victory with Sunil Chhetri bringing out his best in the semifinal against Maldives, scoring two goals and then helping the team win the final by beating Nepal.

The happy time of 2022 and 2023: Then India secured a place in the AFC Asian Cup 2023 on consecutive occasions for the first time. The Blue Tigers managed to win all their games in the third round of the qualifiers in Group D against Hong Kong, Afghanistan and Cambodia and proceeded into the AFC Asian Cup 2023.

The 2023 was a time when India won three trophies in a matter of little more than three months. It all began with the Tri-Nation Series where India marched past Myanmar and Kyrgyzstan to win the title, before winning the SAFF Championships where Kuwait and Lebanon were also placed with the Blue Tigers. It culminated with the Intercontinental Cup victory featuring Lebanon, Vanuatu and Mongolia.

The challenges for the remainder of 2023 and 2024: If the first half of 2023 was a joyful time, the remainder of it and the half of 2024 has been a challenge. Stimac wanted the Indian team to play the Asian Games and also wanted the ISL franchises to release the players who he wanted. But the second demand did not materialise. India reached the round of 16 from a group featuring China, Myanmar and Bangladesh but they were knocked out in the round of 16 by Saudi Arabia.

The start of 2024 was a poor one with India neither winning nor scoring any goals in the Asian Cup featuring Australia, Uzbekistan and Syria in their group. India had a chance of reaching the third round of the qualifiers of FIFA World Cup 2026 but they bottled it up with a defeat against Afghanistan, a draw against Kuwait and a loss against the second-string Qatar team. This led to the termination of Stimac's contract.

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