India suffered a heartbreaking loss to higher-ranked Iraq in the semifinal of the King’s Cup as the Sunil Chhetri-less side went down 4-5 in penalties on Thursday. India were on the course of a historic win over Iraq and were leading 2-1 till the 79th minute. But the Western Asian nation was awarded a penalty when two Indian defenders squeezed the Iraq striker Ghadhban in the box. He found the back of the net to equalize before Iraq defeated the Men in Blue in penalties 5-4.
After the loss, head coach Igor Stimac has slammed the referees over the penalty call, stating that someone robbed the victory of his team. “Our boys left everything on that pitch tonight and I am immensely proud of them! Someone decided to rob them of 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!” Stimac said after the loss.
Meanwhile, the team captain Gurpreet Singh Sandhu also called the awarded penalty questionable.”Obviously, it’s a hard result to digest. I think we could’ve won the game. Unfortunately, the second penalty which was awarded was questionable,” Sandhu told the AIFF.
The Indian team came into the tournament without the services of regular captain Sunil Chhetri, who opted out due to personal reasons. Sandhu praised the team for the performance it showed in the competition. “But again, we did much, much better than what I think people would have thought. And we just need to believe in ourselves. We have to be a bit more patient and positive, which we were. We need to be humble and also make sure that we don’t give away chances the way we did. Unfortunately, Iraq got their chances to come back and win the game,” he added.
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