Soccer-Stimac bemoans lack of strikers after India suffer worst Asian Cup showing in 40 years

AL KHOR, Qatar (Reuters) – India produced their worst Asian Cup performance in 40 years after losing all three of their group matches without scoring as head coach Igor Stimac bemoaned the lack of centre forwards who could step up for the national team in Qatar.

India became the second team after China to finish the campaign without a goal as losses to Australia and Uzbekistan were followed by Tuesday’s 1-0 loss to Syria that ended their faint hopes of moving to the knockout stage.

“Overall in three games we proved that we can compete at this level,” Stimac told reporters.

“Obviously everybody sees what are the missing points in India’s play. Scoring goals, which comes with having good goal-scorers with the team and people with confidence in front of the goal.

“The team produced enough chances to score enough goals. When we start having Indian players in the centre forward position (in the domestic league) then we’re going to have many more goal-scorers for the national team.”

India’s captain Sunil Chhetri has scored 93 international goals and is the third-highest active international goalscorer after Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi but even the 39-year-old veteran was unable to find the net and was left frustrated with some near misses.

After narrowly missing out on the second round in 2019, India had high hopes in this tournament following wins over Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan and Lebanon last year.

During their group matches this month in Qatar, they also enjoyed strong support from the Indian diaspora but the 1964 runner-ups ended up replicating their dismal, goalless, showing from the 1984 campaign.

“We can take a good lesson from here… and say that in the next edition of AFC (Asian) Cup we are going to be much, much stronger definitely,” Stimac added.

(Reporting by Chiranjit Ojha in Bengaluru, editing by Pritha Sarkar)