Indian football head coach Igor Stimac on Thursday said he was disappointed with the side's performance in the last few matches and cited injury to key players as the main reason behind the country going out of reckoning of a World Cup berth. Speaking at the sidelines of the launch of the 13th edition of the I-League, Stimac also expressed his unhappiness at the clubs for not playing Indian players as strikers in the domestic leagues.
"We came back home a bit disappointed after the last two matches but that did not undermine our faith and believes in what we do. We faced big difficulties with the regard to opponents and climatic conditions. The injury problems were the most difficult issue we faced," Stimac said.
"Losing the most important players, Sandesh Jhingan, Rowlin Borges and Amarjit Singh, and then Pranoy Halder missing out a couple of matches initially and also injuring during the Oman match, all these have contributed to the results," the Croatian said.
They played out three consecutive draws -- against Qatar, Bangladesh and Afghanistan -- after losing to Oman at home.
The team is now with three points from five matches and are at fourth spot in the Group E table.
Stimac's side have not won a single match out of the five it has played so far in this second round of the qualifiers.
Stimac compared the current campaign to the 2018 World Cup qualifiers and said that the side under his charge has done better than the earlier one under Englishman Stephen Constantine.
"In the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, the team lost five matches on the trot and had zero points after five matches. Now we have two defeats and three draws and three points," he said.
"We have three more matches to play and now we are on way to achieve what we have promised, that we are going to compete in 2023 Asian Cup and doing better than before once we are there. We want to prepare the team better and go into the qualifiers of the next (2026) World Cup with higher expectations."
Asked about the lack of goals from his players in this World Cup qualifying campaign, Stimac retorted: "Can you mention any player holding an Indian passport playing in any club and scoring goals? Why are you expecting that we are going to score goals in the international level when we don't have a single striker playing in the domestic league and scoring goals.
"I don't work with the players on a daily basis, I work with them for only five days before the game. But the important thing is we are creating chances. The team does not fear any opposition team. That is different from earlier teams, this is a new brave team, India with the heart and courage to play football and win matches."