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Indian football team to play 10 friendlies in Europe in 2020, announces head coach Igor Stimac

Igor Stimac also spoke about Sunil Chhetri and called him a once in a generation player and requested everyone to not speculate much about his retirement.

SNS | New Delhi |

India football men’s senior team head coach Igor Stimac, on Friday, announced that the Indian team will play 10 friendlies in 2020 between March and June. The Blue Tigers are scheduled to play their FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifiers against Qatar in March and Bangladesh and Afghanistan in June.

“We are already quite sure that we are going to have 10 friendly games until June. I presented my calendar to the AIFF Technical Committee because the budgets need to be approved,” Stimac was seen as saying in a Facebook Live session named Ask Igor.

The Croatian further informed that the friendlies will be played in Europe where the team will be camping for at least six to seven weeks.

“Once we finish the ISL semi-finals and final, we will have a camp in March to prepare for the Qatar game and a friendly we are trying to organise. Between that camp and the camp in June, we are taking the team abroad to Europe for 6-7 weeks to play 10 games,” he said.

The 52-year-old was also seen speaking about captain Sunil Chhetri whom he called a once in a generation player.

India’s recent lackadaisical display in front of the opponent’s goal and failure to find a genuine goal-scoring striker have raised speculations among fans as to what will come next when the talismanic forward retires given he is already 34.

Answering questions about the issue, Stimac seemed annoyed and wanted everyone to leave Chhetri alone and let him enjoy his game.

He said, “That is the most common question I face and I am a bit annoyed with it. It seems to me that everyone is pushing Sunil out of the team. We have Sunil – that happens once in two-three decades and everybody is asking when is he leaving? Guys, let him enjoy his game. Why are we putting so much pressure on him? He has got enough years left in him and is still scoring goals. He is playing good football.”

“What do we do when he goes? As a group, we have to replace him. There will be no individual player, it has to be a team affair. At this moment, I cannot see anyone replacing him even in the next five years,” Stimac added.

India next play Qatar on March 26 next year at home and then they will be away to Bangladesh on June 4 in the joint Word Cup and AFC Asian Cup 2023 qualifiers. Their last outing will be against Afghanistan at home on June 9.

India are currently placed fifth in Group E with three draws, two defeats and no wins. The chances for making it to the next round of World Cup qualification seems over but the Blue Tigers remain in contention for progress to the third round of the Asian Cup qualifiers.