IND Vs AUS, AFC Asian Cup 2023: Igor Stimac Reveals India's Strategy Ahead Of Massive Test Against Australia

The AFC Asia Cup began yesterday with Qatar winning the first match. India are set to play against Australia, the team ranked 25 in the world, on the second day. India had also lost to Australia 4-0 in 2011. To deal with Australia's strength on the field, coach Igor Sitmac formulates a strategy

Indian football team in preparation ahead of the Qatar game

Indian football team head coach Igor Stimac is well aware of Australia's formidable prowess and his simple advice to his players ahead of their AFC Asian Cup opener on Saturday is to maintain defensive compactness to stop goals from set pieces.  (Streaming | More Football News

The Socceroos had beaten India 4-0 in their earlier encounter in the 2011 edition, also hosted by Qatar. “We don’t have to give away set pieces. We know the strengths of Australia. They play very pragmatic football," Stimac said of Australia, ranked 25th in the world.

"They (Australia) caused a lot of problems to England (in a friendly in October) and we can expect the storms coming out of them. We need to stay compact and do everything possible to stop crosses from the flanks."

Australia are the champions of the 2015 edition of the Asian Cup, though they had made an exit from the last tournament in 2019 in the quarterfinal stage.

India, on the other hand, was eliminated in the group stage in both 2011 and 2019.

“We are excited that the kick-off time is close. We have had a nice 12 days (of training) here working hard. All the boys are excited and we are looking forward to the game.

"Hopefully, it turns out to be wonderful for our 17 debutants. It is a place for them to learn," said the Croatian.

Stimac is realistic about India’s prospects in the Asian Cup, stating that the most important thing for his team is to play good football.

“Our target is to have a good performance in the next three games as a team and as a country and use the experience from the tournament for the future.

"I'm not putting any pressure on my players. We will go out and fight," he added.

Australia have set the target of regaining the title they had won at home in 2015. Out of the 26 players in their squad, 20 ply trade in European leagues while four play in the domestic A-League. Two players are with Japanese clubs while one is in a Saudi Arabian side.

"It’s going to be a difficult match for us. We all know the strengths of Australia, and their achievements as well," Stimac said.

"Their players are coming in from European clubs, where they’ve been playing competitive football week in, and week out. It's not easy. But we are here to embrace all such challenges.”

India will miss Sahal Abdul Samad in the Group B opener as the Mohun Bagan midfielder is yet to recover from an ankle injury he sustained in December.

"Sahal is not ready yet, not 100 per cent fit for the match (on Saturday). We will do everything we can to have him back for the rest of the tournament,” Stimac said.

Sahal was at the pre-match press conference with Stimac and said the players were looking to give their best on the pitch.

“Our preparations have been very good. We have had some hard and some light training sessions so far, and we’ve prepared well for the game against Australia. We are all really pumped up to give it our best in the game, and we’re hoping for the best," Sahal said.

India has come into the tournament without three key players as defender Anwar Ali, defensive midfielder Jeakson Singh and nippy winger Ashique Kuruniyan were left out of the 26-member squad due to injuries.