After lacklustre first game, Stimac’s side looks to bounce back vs Nepal

India will have to come up with a much improved performance on Sunday to make up for their lacklustre showing in the first of a two-friendly match-up against Nepal earlier this week. Igor Stimac’s side went into the contest at the Dasharath Stadium in Kathmandu as favourites but failed to live up to their billing and were lucky to get away with a 1-1 draw.

Nepal showed much better control on the ball, particularly in the first half. India did improve in the second half after the introduction of Anirudh Thapa and Rahim Ali in place of Brandon Fernandes and Glan Martins respectively and got the equaliser through Thapa but they would know well how disappointing they were on the evening.

Defensively too, the Indians didn’t look compact. Chinglensana Singh’s back-pass that gave Anjan Bista a big opportunity to put Nepal ahead in the 35th minute was nothing short of a shocker. Almost all through the game, the Nepalese attackers looked threatening.

India would be under tremendous pressure on Sunday. In the lead-up to the first game, Stimac had said these two games will provide India with a big practice opportunity ahead of the 2021 SAFF Championship which will kick off in the Maldives next month. The Croatian had also admitted that the expectations are high from his boys in the five-team tournament and that they will be heading into the competition as favourites together with hosts Maldives.

However, India’s performance in the first friendly would have jolted him. The only way they can move on from that is if they can beat Abdullah Almutairi’s men comfortably in the second game. The Indian team wouldn’t want to go into the SAFF Championship low on confidence, so it’s imperative for them to go all out and get the result that Indian fans normally expect when they play their neighbours.

“The mood is positive and our boys are aware that they can do much better. Of course, we are still short with the energy level because we are just at the end of the second week of preparation, and the legs are still heavy. But they are looking forward to putting in a better performance.

“We are going to change a few things, and see if that can help us in terms of passing with more confidence, and getting forward easier,” quoted Stimac ahead of the game.

India goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu too hoped for improvement ahead of the SAFF Championship challenge.

“…The game was a tough one and Nepal were very organised. We had moments where we could have done better as a team, and there were moments where we did get better. We need to make sure that we have a strong mentality going into the second and not give anything to a team who is looking for something. We need to make sure that we use it to prepare for the SAFF Championship in good order,” he said.