India coach Igor Stimac has asked his players to get out of the Indian Super League (ISL) mode and wake up to the reality of international football.
India managed a 1-1 draw against Oman in the first international friendly last week, thanks largely to an inspired second-half performance. But in the opening 45 minutes, they were found wanting.
“In international football, when you provide space and time for opposition, you will get hurt,” Stimac told reporters during an online interaction on Sunday.
“Our players need to understand this is not ISL where you have lots of time and space to control in the middle. If you behave here like the ISL, you will get badly hurt.”
Stimac used six debutants in his starting lineup against Oman and finished the game with 10 players having a taste of international football for the first time.
The “learning process”, the Croatian coach said, would continue even as he expects a tougher challenge against United Arab Emirates (UAE) at the Zabeel Stadium in Dubai on Monday.
“I expect UAE to be more difficult opponents,” Stimac told TOI.
“They are more technical side than Oman. They play quicker football and lots of high pressure. This will be another difficult test for the youngsters.” India handpicked these difficult opponents as preparations for the final leg of the Fifa World Cup 2022 qualifiers in June where they have three games remaining and need to win two for a direct spot in the third round of the Asian Cup 2023 qualifiers. “We are here to get experience, to find out what we can expect from these players who are here for the first time,” said Stimac.