India fires coach after end of 2026 World Cup qualifying campaign

NEW DELHI (AP) — India coach Igor Stimac was fired on Monday, four days after the team's hopes of qualifying for the 2026 World Cup ended.

Losing to Qatar 2-1 on Thursday dropped India to third in its four-team group in the second round of Asia qualification. Only the top two teams progressed to the third stage.

The end of Stimac's five-year tenure was announced after a meeting of the All India Football Federation.

"Noting the disappointing outcome of the ... qualification campaign, the members unanimously agreed that a new head coach would be best placed to take the team forward," the AIFF said in a statement.

“The AIFF thanks Mr. Stimac for his service to the national team and wishes him well in his future endeavors.”

Stimac, a former player with West Ham and Derby and former coach of Croatia, was handed a contract extension in October to June 2026.

Yet, this has been a disappointing year. It started with India finishing bottom of its Asian Cup group following three defeats in three games and no goals scored.

In March came a shock World Cup qualifying home loss against Afghanistan, ranked 30 places below India at 151st.

Successes during Stimac's time included two regional South Asian Championships.

In March, he promised he would resign if he failed to make the next stage of World Cup qualifying. He said, “If I don’t take India to the third round I will leave, with my pride, with my honor on everything that was done here in the five years of work. I will leave my position to someone else.”

A replacement is expected to be named before India's next match in September.


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The Associated Press