The Indian men’s football team went down after a valiant fight against Iraq, losing the King’s Cup 2023 semifinal fixture 5-4 on penalties. Indian coach Igor Stimac didn’t hold back his emotions, as he felt the Blue Tigers were ‘robbed’ by the referee who awarded a late controversial penalty to Iraq that allowed the opposition to level the game at 2-2.
Sandesh Jhinghan was adjudged to have fouled one of Iraq’s forwards, and Aymen Ghadhban duly slotted home the leveller. The game ended 2-2 and after Brandon Fernandes missed the opening spot kick, Iraq were able to progress into the King’s Cup final wherein they will meet hosts Thailand.
It was a dissapointing end for a game which could have resulted in India’s first-ever win over Iraq, the side ranked 7th in Asia, and 70th in FIFA rankings, while the Blue Tigers are 99th in the world.
Courtesy of the defeat, the Gurpreet Singh Sandhu-led Indian team will square off against Lebanon in the third-place playoff, aiming to win their third bronze medal at the King’s Cup, having already claimed two third-place finishes, including the most recent one in 2019.
Taking to social media after India’s defeat, Stimac lauded his boys’ performance, saying that the day isn’t very far away when the referee’s controversial decisions won’t affect the results.
Our boys left everything on that pitch tonight and I am immensely proud of them! Someone decided to rob them from winning tonight but the time will come sooner than many expect that even referees will not be able to stop my boys winning such games! pic.twitter.com/FALMxSjkrD— Igor Štimac (@stimac_igor) September 7, 2023
“Our boys left everything on that pitch tonight and I am immensely proud of them! Someone decided to rob them from winning tonight but the time will come sooner than many expect that even referees will not be able to stop my boys winning such games,” read the post from the Indian coach on X (formerly Twitter).
In an interview with RevSportz, Stimac vented out his frustrations at the referee.
“I didn’t even want to go to the press conference because in the state I’m at the moment after being robbed in such a way, I didn’t want to go there and say the truth. Saying the truth, it’s a very hard thing to do here,” said the Croatian who has already been issued a show cause notice by AIFF for his strong remarks in the media.
“The worst thing for a referee to do is to give something that never happened and to give something he couldn’t see. On the big screens on the pitch, there were replays of the incident. We were telling him to look at the screen, which is 20 meters big and he didn’t want to consider it,” Stimac added.
The Blue Tigers will face off against Lebanon on September 10, 4 PM IST.
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