A record number of Indian footballers made their international debut under coaches Stephen Constantine and Igor Stimac …
When Stephen Constantine took over as head coach of the Indian national team in 2015, the Blue Tigers were battling for 171st place in the FIFA rankings.
Constantine did a flawless job with the Indian squad over the next two years when they made the top 100 for the first time since 1996. India ranked 96th in July 2017, 75 positions higher than when the team’s UK coach took office in 2015.
In addition to advancing the FIFA rankings, India also won several awards and was given the opportunity to play in the Asian Cup after being eight years behind.
After Igor Stimac took over the team, the Blue Tigers managed to keep Qatar in a goalless draw in what was arguably one of India’s best results against a reigning Asian champion.
But the most amazing thing that happened in Indian football between 2015 and today is the number of international debuts. 64 Indian players have made their debut in the past seven years.
Stephen Constantine era
India has won three titles under Stephen Constantine. His era began with winning the SAFF Championship in 2015, followed by triumphing in India for the Tri-Nation Cup and winning the Intercontinental Cup in 2018.
While the team’s performance in 2018 World Cup qualification did not go according to plan, with India finishing last in the group stage, they managed to secure the Asian Cup qualification after eight years behind.
But the most incredible part of the Constantine era was the international debuts of 45 players! In his very first game as Indian coach on March 12, 2015 against Nepal, Constantine made his debut on seven players, including today’s Indian stars Pritam Kotal and Sandesh Jhingan. In the next four years there were 38 other players who made their international debut.
Some of the notable players who made their debut 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 head coach of the Indian team since he took the helm in 2019.
One challenge the Croat faced as an Indian coach was the 16-month hiatus in which the Indian national team hadn’t played a single game due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. After a busy 2019, in which the Blue Tigers played 10 games under Stimac’s guidance, not a single international match was played in 2020. It wasn’t until March 2021 that Stimac was able to put the squad back together and played two friendly matches against Oman and the United Arab Emirates in Dubai.
Under Igor Stimac, 19 Indian players made their international debuts, 11 of which made their international debuts during the Dubai friendly in March 2021. Players like Sahald Abdul Samad, Brandon Fernandes, Ashutosh Mehta and Bipin Singh were given the opportunity to play their maiden international matches under the direction of the former Croatian defender.
What’s next for the Indian team?
The Indian team, led by coach Igor Stimac, is currently in Doha, Qatar, to play the remaining three World Cup qualifiers in 2022. They continue their campaign by facing the hosts on June 3rd, followed by Bangladesh on June 7th and Afghanistan on June 15th.
India began their World Cup qualification with a narrow 2-1 home defeat to Oman, followed by a historic goalless draw against Asian champions Qatar in Doha. In their third and fourth games, the Blue Tigers drew 1-1 against both Bangladesh and Afghanistan and then lost 1-0 away to Oman. With three points from five games, they are currently in fourth place in the points table.