India brace up for Iran storm

India brace up for Iran storm

India brace up for Iran storm

Ever since the groups where drawn for the FIFA World Cup qualifiers, this is one tie that the Indian team was looking up to. The mere prospect of facing the top-ranked Asian side, Iran, in a World Cup qualifying game had got the side geared up for their campaign.

“These are matches that you look forward to. It’s not always that you get to face a side as polished as Iran,” Indian captain Sunil Chhetri had said after the April draw.

But defeats in their opening two games have twisted the plot somewhat. Iran always were firm favourites for this game but India had an altogether different goal as well when they started the group campaign — a spot in the 2019 Asian Cup qualifiers. After those demoralising results, India have a mountain to climb — and not just cherish the opportunity of playing Iran — if they are to achieve that goal.

Rooted to the bottom of the table, which has Oman on the top with six points from two games, the Indians are yet to open their account. Meanwhile, the Iranians are placed third with four points from their two games. Guam are second with six points from three games. Turkmenistan, the other side in the group, is placed fourth with one point.

With just over 14 days of training and a friendly game against a mediocre Nepal to test themselves, the Indians will need to play out of their skins on Tuesday at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium if they are to make any impact against the side ranked 40th on the FIFA list. A compact team with plenty of flair, Iran have shown very little for their opponents to exploit in their two games of the campaign so far. The defensive duo of Jalal Hosseini and Pejman Montazeri are again expected to make life difficult for the Indian attackers.

“They are a compact side, and the guys have been playing together for a while now. It will be difficult to break them down, but we hope that our plans and tactics help us in getting the best from the game,” said Chhetri addressing the media on the eve of the tie.

While the rain Gods threaten to play spoilsport with moderate to light rainfall predicted, the 31-year-old is once again expected to spearhead the young Indian side in company of his Bengaluru FC partner Robin Singh up front, with Eugeneson Lyngdoh marshalling the troops in the midfield.

The return of centre-back Sandesh Jhingan into heart of the defence is a welcome relief for Stephen Constantine’s side and he is expected to take charge of the rearguard with the Arnab Mondal.

Meanwhile, the visitors, coached by Carlos Queiroz — the man credited for reshaping Manchester United’s playing style under his then boss Sir Alex Ferguson — will depend on the young strike force of Sardar Azmoun and Mehdi Taremi to get them the much-needed three points.

Azmoun, with his pace and dribbling skills, could put the Indian defenders in a spot of bother, while Taremi can be expected to cause problems with his precise shooting abilities.

Though the Iranians were held to a 1-1 draw by Turkmenistan in their opening game away from home, a repeat is very unlikely unless the Indians come out with a galvanising show.

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