Defender Sandesh Jhingan is enjoying the system being employed by head coach Igor Stimac and said the players are loving the approach as they get ready for their opening World Cup qualifiers match against Oman in Guwahati on Thursday.
Stimac, who took charge of the team in May, wants the Indian team to play a brand of football which builds up from the back and goes on attack mode in a smooth transition, though he said it was only one of the options available.
Senior defender Jhingan said the players are “loving” the new system.
“Everyone has seen how the coach wants us to play,” Jhingan is quoted as saying by AIFF. “It’s not easy to implement a new possession-based style. We have to be brave and I can say that from our games against Curacao (King’s Cup) to Syria (Intercontinental Cup), we have improved a lot.”
“We have the right kind of players and everyone in the team has loved the new approach,” he added.
The team underwent a training camp in Goa, which began on August 20, ahead of the Oman game.
Talking about the transition in the playing style, Jhingan said that the players have been working on it both on and off the pitch.
“Training has been about building patterns on the pitch and making them a natural part of our games. As a centre-back, I have to play out from the back and every player is adapting to his new role as well.
“Off the field, we are studying as well. We keep getting videos and clippings from the staff, that help us learn better.”
One of the key players for Stimac has been midfielder Sahal Abdul Samad, who has appeared in each of India’s five international games under the Croatian.
“We have developed a great understanding in the midfield and know each other’s movements – when to make what run and when to stay back,” Sahal said. “Knowing that I have the support behind me also gives me the confidence to push forward as well.”
Anirudh Thapa, who scored the lone goal in India’s win away to Thailand in the King’s Cup in June, said, “The coach wants us to keep the ball and keep possession. I like it and it suits me well. Adapting to it is a challenge but we are gelling well together in midfield. We are working on improving our understanding and game-reading.”