Thu, 30 Nov 2023

Hangzhou [China], September 29 (ANI): Indian football head coach Igor Stimac lauded the men's senior side for their performance at the ongoing Asian Games in Hangzhou, after their campaign came to an end in the round of 16 on Friday.

India's men's football team's Asian Games campaign ended following two quick second-half strikes by Marram Mohammed as the Blue Tigers went down 0-2 to Saudi Arabia in their Round of 16 encounter on Thursday.

Following the loss, the head coach took to X (formerly Twitter) to appreciate his "Warriors" for fighting it out as they were a new team that had never played together before but still performed well against quality opponents.

"As our Asian Games campaign comes to a close, I wanted to appreciate these absolute WARRIORS who gave it their all for our nation New team that's never played together before, zero practice sessions until after we qualified for the Round of 16 and fighting valiantly...," tweeted Stimac.

"..against quality opponents. Our boys fought through all adversity and gained vital experience, plus all my respect," continued the coach in a subtweet.

He also said that the fans of Indian football "deserve better and they will get it".

"To our fans, I see that most of you understand what this team had to go through and have pushed us on regardless of the result. You deserve better, and you will get it. I promise you that. Much love. Jai Hind," concluded Stimac in a subtweet.

India started off its campaign with a 1-5 loss to China but bounced back with a 1-0 win over Bangladesh. After that, they qualified for quarters following a 1-1 draw with Myanmar.

Coming to the match, India kicked off the game with a touch of physicality. Igor Stimac had previously stressed the importance of fighting it out on the pitch and it was no surprise to see the Blue Tigers putting their bodies on the line and relying on the counterattack approach to surprise their opponents.

Despite holding possession for large periods of the first half, Saudi Arabia did not really have too many clear-cut chances on the Indian goal.

India had their first chance of the game in the 14th minute, with skipper Sunil Chhetri becoming the architect as cut through three Saudi players before a lucky bounce presented him with a chance to shoot at goal from outside the box. His shot however went straight into the hands of the keeper.

Saudi Arabia started to press higher and every clearance or the loose ball was immediately taken into their control. The Indian team had to spend most of the first half in their own area and the first half ended goalless.

Saudi Arabia started the second half with urgency and six minutes later, Marran Mohammed headed in a cross by Abu Al Shamta to give them the lead. Marran got second of the night in the 57th minute, by getting past Dheeraj and slotting it into the back of the net.

Dheeraj made some brilliant saves to ensure the deficit didn't increase. In the end, the Blue Tigers' first appearance in the knockouts in over a decade ended with a defeat. (ANI)

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