India will start a new era under Igor Stimac when they will take on Curacao in the King’s Cup. The King’s Cup is an annual football tournament which is organized by the Football Association of Thailand. The match will be played at the Chang Arena in Buriram, Thailand.
India whose FIFA ranking is 101, will face a tough task against Curacao, who is currently ranked 82nd in the world.
The Indian team will be in action for the first time post the AFC Asian Cup in January. India had performed reasonably well, despite being knocked out in the group stages. They had thrashed Thailand, the hosts of King’s Cup, 4-1 in a match that will long live in the memories of Indian football fans.
India has seen a change in guard with Englishman Stephen Constantine leaving the side after the Asian Cup. Constantine did a tremendous job for Indian football guiding them from obscurity to the light at the end of the tunnel.
After an extensive search and scrutiny of several applications, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) appointed Croatian legend Igor Stimac as the team’s new head coach. Stimac was a star centre-back for Croatia when they finished third in the FIFA World Cup 1998 in France. As a manager, the 51-year old helped his native Croatia to qualify for the FIFA World Cup 2014 in Brazil. He will be assisted by Doru Isac, a Romanian who was the assistant of Arsene Wenger at Japanese outfit Nagoya Grampus.
Stimac had conducted a two week preparatory camp in New Delhi, after which he selected a final 23 man squad, having initially called up 37 players for the national camp. The Croat has already made some changes to the core Indian side, which had played under Constantine. Stimac has taken eight debutants with him to Thailand.
The debutants include Kamaljit Singh, Rahul Bheke, Michael Soosairaj, Adil Khan, Brandon Fernandes, Raynier Fernandes, Sahal Abdul Samad and captain of the Indian team at the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in 2017, Amarjit Singh Kiyam. All these players will have a chance to make their senior national team debuts in Thailand.
The Blue Tigers will look for inspiration and will bank on the experienced trio of Sunil Chhetri, Sandesh Jhingan and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu.
India’s opponents are a Caribbean island nation, Curacao. They became an independent nation in 2010, but since then they have taken giant strides and are currently ranked 82nd in the world. They are managed by Remko Bicentini. Bicentini became the head coach after serving as the assistant to former coach Patrick Kluivert, the Dutch legend.
Curacao will use the King’s Cup as a warm-up tournament ahead of this month’s Gold Cup, where they have been paired alongside Jamaica, Honduras and El Salvador. They have lost just one of their previous six matches in all competitions.
The star players of the team are Cuco Martina, the nation’s captain, who is currently in the books of Premier League side Everton. Leandro Bacuna is their danger man. The midfielder played for Cardiff City in the Premier League last season and has also plied his trade for Aston Villa and Reading in England. Eloy Room, Curacao’s last line of defence, is another player to watch out for. The goalkeeper plays for Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven in Eredivisie.