Buoyed by the promising start under newly appointed coach Igor Stimac, India will begin the defence of their Intercontinental Cup when they take on Tajikistan here Sunday. The four-nation tournament also includes Syria and North Korea. All teams will be playing each other once, with the top two teams making it to the final, slated for July 17. The Indian side will be heading into the tournament on the back of a promising show in the King’s Cup in Thailand, where they finished third.
The tournament will be Stimac’s second assignment since taking over as the head coach of the Blue Tigers. Under his charge, India played out their first-ever away win over Thailand in the King’s Cup. This is the first time Gujarat will be hosting a senior men’s international competition. “Ahmedabad is a splendid choice to host the tournament. It’s a wise decision as it will help expand football across all parts of the country. I have trained in the city recently for my club. I hope that people will come out in large numbers, support us, and create a special atmosphere,” defender Sandesh Jhingan said.
Anirudh Thapa, who played at the EKA Arena for Chennaiyin AFC in the AFC Cup, added the “pan India effect” will help popularise football more. “The national team has played in Mumbai, Goa, Kochi, Guwahati in recent times. This time the fans in Gujarat will have their chance to stand by the Blue Tigers. The tournament is sure to generate interest among the local fans,” he said.