Can India start their mission to qualify for the Asian Cup by getting past the side they had beaten at the final hurdle for their previous Asian Cup entry...
Chettri, Gouramangi, Raju, Nabi
Vashum,Lamare, Jewel, Francis
Sodikov, Davronov, Mahmudov, Fatkhuloev,
A new-look Indian team open their Challenge campaign on 9th March, hoping to re-create the magic of 4 years ago.
Ironically, in their first league encounter, they are up against the team whom they defeated in the final of the tournament in 2008 – Tajikistan.
Heading into the competition, Savio Medeira has tried giving youth a chance, but the results in the international friendlies preceding the Challenge Cup have not been encouraging.
Thumped 5-1 by Oman in Muscat, they followed it up with a 3-0 loss against Azerbaijan. While they did win a game against a local Dubai based amateur club, that can hardly be counted as a positive.
As can be made out from the scorelines above, it is the defense which is Savio Medeira’s biggest worry. A solid partner for Gouramangi Moirangthem, who himself has been out of form in the I-League this season, has been difficult to find. Nirmal Chettri has been shunted to right back and while Raju Gaikwad is a promising player, his lack of experience could be a problem.
Anwar Ali was embarrassing against Oman, and is lucky to have made the squad while Kingkshuk Debnath has been included after Arnab Mondal pulled out due to injury leaving the coach with no viable alternative in the centre of defense.
Upfront, captain Sunil Chhetri is expected to shake off his injury worries and lead the side alongside Joaquim Abranches.
The midfield is full of talent but with not a single player from the 2008 batch, which highlights the inexperience.
The 140th ranked Tajikistan team come into the competition after wrapping up their 2014 World Cup qualification campaign in the third round, being knocked out after finishing last in their group having managed just a single point.
That point though came against group rivals DPR Korea on 29th February of this year.
With India’s well documented defensive problems, the Persian Lions will be looking up to their ace striker Yusuf Rabiev to fire them to three points. Rabiev is one of the few Tajikistani players who played in the inaugural Challenge Cup, which they won.
Overall Kemal Alispahic’s side is a very solid outfit and is ruthless who can exploit the slightest of mistakes by oppositions.
|| DID YOU KNOW?
- India and Tajikistan have met twice in international games with India having won 1 and drawn the other.
- Only seven players from India’s squad of 2008 AFC
Challenge Cup are part of the squad 4 years on.
- All the three previous winners of the competition are in Group B – Tajikistan, India, North Korea.
- India are the lowest ranked outfit in Group B.
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