India look to seize a golden chance

India look to seize a golden chance

On the cusp of qualifying for what skipper Sunil Chhetri termed as the biggest tournament for an Asian country, India will lock horns with Macau in an AFC Asian Cup qualifier here on Wednesday.

Three points at the Sree Kanteerava stadium will seal India’s spot in the tournament to be held in the United Arab Emirates in 2019 while extending their unbeaten streak to 12 matches. The way forward became clear for India after Myanmar and Kyrgyzstan drew 2-2 in the other match in Group A on Tuesday.

India top the charts in the group with nine points from three games. Myanmar and Kyrgyzstan are on three points from two matches. Macau are still in pursuit of their first win.

Despite India coming into the game firm favourites after winning the away fixture 2-0 in Macau, Indian head coach Stephen Constantine said he will not be tempted out of playing his strongest starting XI because he believes there is still a lot of work to be done.

“We are almost there but until and unless we’re mathematically there, we won’t rest. I don’t take anything lightly. Yes, I will always play youngsters in the national team but there is a time and opportunity for them to feature.

“As far as tomorrow’s game goes, I will put my best players out on that pitch.”

Macau had lined-up ultra-defensively when they hosted the Indians and Chhetri’s men had to dig deep in the second half to eventually come up trumps, with Balwant Singh hammering home two second-half goals.

Chhetri, while admitting that his side was limited to efforts from outside the box and long-range passes into the box, is confident they can rectify what they lacked in that fixture.

“It definitely was a struggle there. Despite having a lot of ball possession we couldn’t break them down or create clear chances. We have been working really hard in training to tweak a few areas and we should be able to see the results on the pitch.”

With Constantine confirming he had an injury-free squad to pick from, Chhetri will once again be in the spotlight with his phenomenal work-rate and is expected to play the number 10 role behind striker Jeje Lalpekhlua.

India would be largely unchanged in defence but, in midfield, after enduring a lacklustre outing in the win against Macau, Halicharan Narzary could sit out Wednesday’s game if the English coach decides to switch to 4-4-2 system. 

Gurpreet Singh Sandhu will almost certainly feature between the sticks as Subrata Pal continues to warm the benches.

Being in the reckoning for a tournament of this magnitude and playing competitive football against top teams is a victory in itself according to Macau’s coach Chan Hiu Ming.

“We are really happy to be participating in a tournament like this but we are still in a very nascent stage when it comes to football.

“Of course it will be tough but this is football and anything can happen.”

The Hong-Kong national affirmed they will be setting up defensively again to counter the Indian forwards.

DH News Service


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