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Asia Cup 2019: Intercontinental Cup triumph a great achievement for India but the real test starts now

07:00 GMT+4 12/06/2018
Indian National Team
The upcoming friendly games will provide the real test for Team India...

India comprehensively clinched the Intercontinental Cup 2018 on Sunday by beating Kenya 2-0 in the final of the tournament in Mumbai. Captain Sunil Chhetri’s scintillating performance throughout the four-nation tourney guided India to the title. He scored eight goals in the competition which included a brace in the summit clash.

India kicked-off the tournament with a commanding 5-0 win over a weak Chinese Taipei side followed by a 3-0 win over a second-string Kenya. The back-to-back wins had all but ensured India’s place in the final which allowed coach Stephen Constantine to test his bench strength in their third game against New Zealand.

The second string Indian side failed to make a mark as they went down 1-2 against the All Whites but they still managed to qualify for the finals.

It was indeed a special week for India who scored 11 goals in four matches and conceded just twice. The statistics are surely morale boosting for the players as well as the fans across the country.

But it has to be kept in mind that the celebrations after the Intercontinental Cup triumph do not go overboard as this is just the beginning of the preparation for the upcoming Asian Cup.

Let us analyse India’s opponents in the Intercontinental Cup. To start with, all the three participating are placed behind India in the latest released FIFA ranking. Several first-choice national team players were not available for the all the three competing nations. As many as six to seven Kenyan players who are regular starters did not travel to India as the country’s national league is in progress. It must also be remembered Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Victor Wanyama and McDonald Mariga did not travel for the tournament.

So it is not really an overwhelming result for a team like India who will be competing in the Asian Cup in a few months.

New Zealand, who had played the FIFA World Cup 2010 and had managed to hold Italy to a draw and in the process knocked them out of the competition, have not been able to keep up that level. They are currently ranked 120 and are 23 places behind India. Meanwhile, their squad for the tournament  was dubbed as the youngest and most inexperienced in its history.

The second choice Indian team had come up against New Zealand and it must be said that the All Whites completely dominated proceedings in that game and exposed the vulnerability.

India have not faced many quality international opponent in the past couple of years. Their last big international game was against Iran on March 29th, 2016 which they lost 4-0.

Constantine’s men are in Group A in the Asian Cup 2019 alongside hosts UAE, Bahrain and Thailand. UAE are considered to be one of the top sides in Asia at the moment. Bahrain and Thailand too are teams on the rise and even though they are behind India in FIFA rankings, they have enough firepower to India.

It has been already finalised that India will face Asian giants Saudi Arabia and Syria in October and November. This is welcoming decision taken by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) ahead of the big stage. Performances against these two countries will actually be India’s real test of abilities and show where they really stand.