A rude wake-up call for India

A rude wake-up call for India

When India were placed along with Guam in the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers earlier this year, the football fans would have strained their eyes to spot the tiny island on the map.

Where on earth is this Guam?


After an embarrassing 1-2 defeat to that little speck in the ocean on Tuesday, India not only know where Guam is but are also aware how they play and what happens when you bring your lacklustre  game to the pitch against a spirited opponent.

A tiny island in the North Pacific Ocean, Guam, a US territory, was expected to be the whipping boys in Group D, with Iran, Oman and Turkmenistan being the other teams in the group. Afterall, in their previous foray into World Cup qualifying rounds in 2000 (for the 2002 tournament), they had suffered 16-0 and 19-0 drubbings at the hands of Tajikistan and Iran.


However, there were warning signals for India last week in the opening round match of the 2018 qualifiers, when Guam shocked Turkmenistan 1-0. Still, India felt they were a cut above. “We are here to win,” Indian coach Stephen Constantine had declared on the eve of the match.


Constantine though was forced to eat humble pie on Tuesday.

“Today the difference was very much visible between a group of players who have the best football education and the rest. Seventy-five per cent of the players who represented Guam have been born and brought up in the US and that made a huge difference,” Constantine said.

While that might have been the case, India, despite the jet lag, had no reason to adopt a diffident approach in a game they were expected to win. An insipid display from them invited punishment and woeful defending left them gaping at a 0-2 lead. Only a late Sunil Chhetri goal — his 50th for the country — enabled them to make a mark on the scoreboard.

With two defeats in two matches, India are now staring at an early exit from the competition. There are more matches to follow, six of them to be precise, with a game against Iran in Bengaluru in September being the next one. Plenty of time to ponder then, for the coach and also the men who administer the game in the country.

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