India need to lift their game

India need to lift their game

Home match against Qatar

India were outplayed by a technically superior Qatar 3-1 in the first leg in Doha on June 19 and it will be a difficult job, if not impossible, for Desmond Bulpin’s under-23 boys to turn the tables on Thursday at Shiv Chhatrapati stadium Balewadi.

A 2-0 win will see India through to the final round on 3-3 aggregate and on away goal rule, but Bulpin’s worry would be in his defence as his boys had been a disappointment in that department in the first leg.

The back-four comprising Abhishek Das, Arnab Mondal, Raju Gaikwad and Gurjinder Kumar had faced a torrid time in the first leg and India can ill-afford to let in goals in the return leg.
Bulpin will also be looking to his midfielders to come good in familiar conditions. Bulpin admitted that Qatar are a technically better side but he is not ready to rule out a surprise from his boys.

“I’m proud of my boys. The manner in which they fought against a more technically equipped side (in the first leg), it speaks about their character,” he said. The city has been witnessing light rains for the past few days and heavy ground conditions could favour the home side though not much. Bulpin is not banking much on the rain factor, saying, “The rain may just give us a slight edge, not a distinct one.”

Captain Raju Gaikwad said the team will go all out for a win. “We have to go all out. There aren’t many other options left,” he said. In such case, Bulpin will have to plan for the Qatari counter-attack.

“If we go all out, we need to be careful when they counter-attack. They are very good in passing the ball,” he said. Qatar coach Simondi Bernard is confident his side will go through but has advised his boys to be careful.

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