Doha [Qatar], June 16 (ANI): India football team assistant manager Venkatesh Shanmugham has explained why skipper Sunil Chhetri was taken off in the 69th minute against Afghanistan in their last match of Group E of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 Joint Qualifier.
"It's the [head] coach's (Igor Stimac) decision. According to the game, requirement of positions change. That's all. We were trying to score till the 90th minute, and some players were tired. It happens," Goal quoted Venkatesh Shanmugham as saying.
India ended their 2022 World Cup qualification campaign with four draws, three losses, and one win from their eight matches while scoring six goals and conceding seven. This means India finish third place in the standings with seven points from eight matches. A third-place finish in Group E means that India moves directly to the third round of qualifiers for the AFC Asian Cup China 2023.
"It's a long way to go. You can't compare with the last time (2018 WCQ)," Shanmugham insisted. "Now there are a lot of new players and we have to concentrate to increase our level. We are in a process and the players are responding well as compared to the first game till now. We are confident as coaches."
In Tuesday's match, India took the lead via a 75th-minute own goal courtesy Afghanistan goalkeeper Ovays Azizi, but the Afghans pulled back and scored the equaliser minutes later, through their teenage sensation Hossein Zamani. Receiving a cut-back from Noor Husin, Zamani curled a right-footer into the Indian goal, off the far post.
India head coach Igor Stimac made two changes to the side that started for the Blue Tigers against Bangladesh in the previous game, with Bipin Singh and Udanta Singh making way for Rahul Bheke and Ashique Kuruniyan. (ANI)