After a mixed performance against Oman, Igor Stimac would want his players to play his desired fearless brand of football when India take on UAE.
“I can tell you Sandesh (Jhingan) is not going to be involved against UAE. I will have to play Adil Khan also. It will not be justice to the remaining players if they are not fielded in these friendly matches,” said India men’s football team coach Igor Stimac on the eve of the friendly against UAE.
It will also not be justice if Stimac doesn’t take the opportunity of these friendlies against higher-ranked teams to rotate his squad and perfect his combinations for the upcoming AFC Asian Cup qualifiers in June. After all, that’s the whole point of playing these friendlies.
India struggled in large parts against the strategically and physically stronger Oman as 10 players got to make their debuts for the Blue Tigers. Yet, they dug in and eked out a highly satisfying 1-1- draw against a team that had beaten them twice in the qualifiers.
Defenders Sandesh Jhingan, Chinglensana Singh, Akash Mishra, and Ashutosh Mehta were kept on their toes continuously and it was a result of a magical cross from Bipin Singh which found a highly efficient Manvir Singh for the goal which helped India secure the draw, against a team placed 23 places above them in the FIFA rankings.
Now that they move on to the next friendly, India would want to correct the mistakes from the Oman game. It’s no surprise that Oman, a better-ranked team, dominated the possession against India. But it’s the manner in which the opposition dominated the Indians, especially in the first half, that made it for alarming concern.
They defended deep in the first half, rarely ventured out of their own half to put pressure on the Oman players, and failed to stitch any meaningful pass in the midfield. India, though, made the course correction in the second half. In the second half, they looked more composed, showed better control on the ball, allowing them to hold onto a draw.
“Positioning of the ball in the middle part of the pitch, that is crucial. In international football if you give space to opposition players you will suffer. These are the areas we need to work on,” pointed out Stimac on Sunday.
Against UAE, India’s aim should be to play the brand of football that Stimac has so strongly professed so far in his tenure as the India coach.
Once again, it is expected that UAE will dominate the ball, but that should not be the defining act of the match. Stimac has long advocated a fearless brand of football and one would be happy to see his players take the UAE players head-on. It’s important that players are quick on their feet and also think on their feet.
“UAE is even tougher than Oman, so I expect a very tough match tomorrow. They (UAE) are technically better side, play quicker football and they will give a lot of pressure on us,” Stimac said. “But that is something we want to face and that is why we are playing international friendly against them. I don’t expect my players to control the game but we have to find a way to compete against them,” admitted Stimac.
India can take inspiration from the 2019 Asian Cup clash against UAE where they lost 2-0. In that match, Sunil Chhetri and Co took the game to the opposition, had nine shots in the game, same as UAE, landing three on the target. Hit the framework twice but unfortunately failed to score.
As mentioned earlier, Stimac would want to give opportunities to the players who missed out on the Oman game. The likes of Adil Khan, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Pritam Kotal, and Halicharan Narzary would be raring to go against UAE, under pressure from the younger generation.
India will play UAE on 29 March at the Zabeel Stadium in Dubai. The match will start at 8.30 PM IST. It will be broadcast on Eurosport and Eurosport HD.
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