The Indian men’s soccer team will play two international friendlies against Bahrain and Belarus on March 23 and 26, respectively. Both matches, which will be played in Manama, Bahrain, are part of the squad’s build-up campaign in the AFC Asian Cup third-round tie, which is scheduled for June 2022.
“Given the current circumstances, it was extremely difficult to find the type of opponents we were looking for. But I am very happy that we have both games on our schedule,” said head coach Igor Stimac.
“We are doing our best to prepare well for the upcoming AFC Asian Cup China 2023 final qualifying round, and these two games will greatly facilitate our preparation process,” he added.
“Both Bahrain and Belarus are ranked higher than us, and if all goes well with the Hero ISL season with our guys putting on strong performances and playing competitive games, we should be good to go,” added Stimac.
Bahrain is ranked 91st in the FIFA rankings, while Belarus is ranked 94th. India’s current FIFA ranking is 104th.
The last time India played against a UEFA Member Association was more than a decade ago in February 2012 against Azerbaijan, a match the rivals won 3-0.
The Belarusian contingent consists of many international players who ply their trade in the Russian Premier League (three players) and also in the first league (three players), while a few more are also under contract with clubs in Hungary, the Czech Republic and Cyprus. .
Stimac, who coached Croatia in qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil, also stressed the importance of taking “the necessary precautions and staying safe”.
“We need to keep planning and working as everything is fine and normal. But at the same time, we need to take precautions to keep ourselves as safe as possible in our effort to avoid unpleasant situations,” she expressed.
With the broadcasting rights of the matches in the hands of the Bahrain FA, the AIFF is already in talks with them, and also with the Belarus FA for further permissions on live broadcasting of the matches in India.