A record number of Indian footballers made their international debuts under coaches Stephen Constantine and Igor Stimac…
When Stephen Constantine took charge of the Indian national team as their head coach in 2015, the Blue Tigers were struggling at the 171st position in the FIFA rankings.
Constantine in the next two years did an impeccable job with the Indian team as they broke into the top 100 for the first time since 1996. In July 2017, India were ranked 96, 75 positions above from where they were when the British coach took charge of the team in 2015.
Apart from the rise in FIFA rankings, India also won several accolades and got the opportunity to play in the Asian Cup after a gap of eight years.
After Igor Stimac took charge of the team, the Blue Tigers managed to hold Qatar to a goalless draw which was arguably one of India’s best results against a reigning Asian champion.
But the most astonishing thing that happened in Indian football between 2015 to present is the number of international debuts. 64 Indian players have made their debuts in the last seven years.
Stephen Constantine era
Under Stephen Constantine, India have won three titles. His era began by winning the SAFF Championship in 2015 followed by the Tri-nation cup triumph in India and the winning the Intercontinental Cup in 2018.
While the team’s performances in 2018 World Cup qualifiers did not go as per plan as India finished last in the group stage, they managed to earn an Asian Cup qualification after a gap of eight years.
But the most incredible part of the Constantine era was the international debuts of 45 players! In his very first match as the Indian coach on March 12, 2015, against Nepal, Constantine handed debuts to seven players which include present-day Indian stars Pritam Kotal and Sandesh Jhingan. In the next four years, 38 other players went to make their international debuts.
Some of the notable players who have made their debuts under Constantine are Pritam Kotal, Sandesh Jhingan, Anirudh Thapa, Rowllin Borges, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Manvir Singh and many more.
Igor Stimac era
It has been a challenging journey for Igor Stimac as the head coach of the Indian team since he took charge at the helm in 2019.
A challenge that the Croatian faced as India’s coach was the 16 months gap where the Indian national team did not play a single game due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. After a busy 2019, where the Blue Tigers played 10 matches under Stimac’s tutelage, not a single international match was played in 2020. It was only in March 2021, that Stimac got to reassemble the squad and played two friendly matches against Oman and UAE in Dubai.
Under Igor Stimac, 19 Indian players have made their international debuts out of which 11 debuts were handed during the friendly matches in Dubai in March 2021. Players like Sahald Abdul Samad, Brandon Fernandes, Ashutosh Mehta and Bipin Singh got an opportunity to play their maiden international matches under the former Croatian defender’s tutelage.
What next for the Indian team?
The Indian team under the tutelage of coach Igor Stimac is currently in Doha, Qatar to play their remaining three 2022 World Cup qualifiers. They resume their campaign by taking on the hosts on June 3 followed by Bangladesh on June 7 and Afghanistan on June 15.
India started their World Cup qualification run with a narrow 2-1 defeat at the hands of Oman at home, followed by a historic goalless draw against Asian champions Qatar in Doha. In their third and fourth matches, the Blue Tigers managed 1-1 draws against both Bangladesh and Afghanistan and then they suffered a 1-0 defeat against Oman away from home. They are currently fourth on the points table with three points from five matches.
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