India just needs a draw to make it to the 2014 main edition. But Myanmar will not go down easily, while their fans shall ensure that the Blue Tigers face a hostile reception...
While it was Chinese Taipei that held Myanmar to a surprising 1-1 draw, the loudest cheer might perhaps have been heard from the Indian contingent, as their road to the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup in Maldives got a tad easier.
While the Blue Tigers themselves were lucky to get away with all three points against Taipei, Robin Singh’s injury time goal looks all the more invaluable now!
A win for the White Angels against Taipei would have meant that Wim Koevermans’ side had to beat Myanmar to get an automatic slot for the 2014 main edition, as their goal difference would have been inferior to the host nation, who had won 5-0 against Guam.
However, the tables have been turned and now all India need to do against Myanmar is, hold on for a point.
As if that wasn’t enough, in a further respite to the Blue Tigers' somewhat shaky defense, Sung-Hwa Park has major injury issues up-front, meaning that Kyi Lin will most likely start in attack, and the 20-year old’s lack of experience might play into India’s hands.
India need to be at their best, from the start against Myanmar...
Wim Koevermans though, knows that they cannot allow complacency to set in. Even against Guam, India shockingly went into half-time, tied at 0-0, leading to outrage amongst fans in several forums.
What followed in the second half though was certainly a soothing balm to the Indian football faithful’s nerves, but a similar cold start against a better team in the shape of Myanmar, might not end so happily.
The Dutchman has continued to use Jewel Raja in-behind Sunil Chhetri. While the Mohun Bagan player definitely adds a lot of mobility, while also helping out in keeping possession, it largely isolates Chhetri alone up-front.
This means the team lacks bite in the attack, meaning that more work has to be put in by the wingers, with Koevermans now looking at them to not only provide penetration down the wings, but also drifting into the box, to provide more options in attack.
While the inclusion of Izumi Arata and Francis Fernandes added creativity and pace at half-time to India’s attack, it is highly unlikely that the former will start, as the Dutchman has great faith in the double defensive pivot of Lenny Rodrigues and Mehtab Hussain.
Francis though, will in all likelihood start, with Syed Rahim Nabi making way. It has been a stunning and sudden slide for the Mohun Bagan man, who only a few months ago was one of the first names on the team-sheet.
Plenty to ponder over...
His poor display against Palestine finally convinced Koevermans to look at other options at left-back, while Clifford Miranda and Francis Fernandes seem to be his players of choice, as illustrated on Monday, when the Salgaocar FC player was bought in, just after half-time, in a bid to spruce up the attack.
It might though, not be a bad idea to use Nabi at right-back, a position that he has filled in before, with the Dutch coach still not able to make up his mind between Denzil Franco and Nirmal Chettri, who offer different attributes in that position.
Overall though, India look primed to make it to the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup edition. However while the onus will be on Myanmar to take up the initiative, the Blue Tigers themselves will be under pressure, as the fans of the home side will try to make the atmosphere as intimidating as possible. The possible backlash that could await them on their return, if they falter, also possibly at the back of their mind.
This sets us all up for what promises to be an entertaining game, which would show the fans, how far the Koevermans revolution has progressed, with the Indian national team.
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