FIFA Ranking: 113
Nickname: The Reds (Al-Ahmar)
Last match played: Bahrain 0-1 Thailand (10 January 2018)
Coach: Miroslav Soukup
The 2000s was arguably the best time to be a fan of the Bahraini national football team. The Gulf side almost managed to qualify for two successive FIFA World Cups - 2006 and 2010, but both times failed to cross the final hurdle in the inter-continental playoffs.
Bahrain had even been ranked as high as 49th sometime in 2004, the same year they had their best ever Asian Cup finish - fourth-placed finish in China. For such promise, that has been the only time the Reds have even squeezed past the group stages in their previous five appearances at the continental stage.
Now ranked 16 places below India, Bahrain have had a mini-revolution of sorts under Czech manager Miroslav Soukup who took over the team in July 2016. In the Gulf Cup 12 months ago in Kuwait, they reached the semi-finals after 10 long years.
On their way to the 2019 Asian Cup, they topped Group E of the final qualifying round which included Turkmenistan, Singapore and Chinese Taipei, losing only once during the six-game campaign.
In the international friendly windows in 2018, Bahrain had hosted the most number of games (7) as compared to any other team in the Asian Cup. However, the only win came against a lowly-ranked Myanmar side in November, who they managed to brush aside 4-1 with ease.
There were questions asked of the team, going into the final phase of preparation but three consecutive convincing friendly wins in December (5-0 vs Tajikistan, 1-0 vs Lebanon and 4-0 vs North Korea) filled the Bahrainis with much-needed confidence ahead of the tournament.
They featured in the curtain-raiser against hosts UAE and were by far the better side on the night. Mohamed Al Romaihi had potentially scored the winner but a questionable penalty late into the game helped the hosts avert an embarrassing start to the Asian Cup as the tie ended 1-1.
Next up was Thailand, who themselves were coming off a 4-1 defeat at the hands of India but the War Elephants scored the solitary goal of the match despite having only 39 per cent of ball possession during the match, rendering Bahrain winless in the group.
LESSONS FROM THE PAST
Bahrain have never played a friendly with India and have only faced them in competitive ties. The only time the Blue Tigers have not returned empty handed was way back in 1982 - a goalless draw in their first-ever meeting.
India will dread a déjà vu moment from the 2011 Asian Cup - their last meeting with Bahrain, where the scoreline read 5-2 in favour of the Middle-Eastern side, where Sunil Chhetri and Gouramangi Singh scored for the Blue tigers.
|H-2-H||GAMES||IND WINS||DRAWS||BHR WINS||GOALS (IND)||GOALS (BHR)||GD [IND]||WIN % [IND]|
|IND v BHR||5||0||1||4||3||13||-10||0%|
Eyeballs were raised even before the tournament started when Soukup left out Mohamed Duaij, Ibrahim Habib, Mohamed Al Hardan, Mahdi Abduljabbar and Mahdi Hemaidan from the 23-man squad.
Conjecture grew with forwards Sami Al Husaini and Abdulla Yusuf, the latter who plies his trade in the Czech first division with Bohemians 05 could not find a place in the starting lineup in both games.
20-year-old Mohamed Marhoon was brought on for Jamal Rashed against Thailand but he was taken off after an hour. If Soukup does not fancy a return for Rashed, Al Husaini might be in for a start.
PLAYERS TO LOOK OUT FOR
Mohamed Al Romaihi: The Manama forward has scored the only goal for his country in the tournament so far. The 28-year-old also got a few open headers against Thailand but was unlucky on the evening. He will keep the Indian defenders on their toes.
|Bahrain squad for Asian Cup 2019|
|Goalkeepers||Sayed Shubbar Alawi (Najma), Yusuf Habib Hasan (Malkiyah), Abdulkarim Fardan (Riffa)|
|Defenders||Sayed Mahdi Baqer (Nasr), Waleed Mohamed Alhayam (Muharraq), Hamad Mahmood Alshamsan (Riffa), Ahmed Merza Moosa (Hidd), Ahmed Ali Juma (Muharraq), Sayed Redha Isa (Riffa), Ahmed Mubarak Bughammar (Hidd), Ahmed Abdulla Ali (Najma)|
|Midfielders||Sayed Dhiya (Nasr), Abdulwahab Ali Alsafi (Muharraq), Mohamed Jasim Marhoon (Riffa), Ali Jaafar Madan (Najma), Ali Abdul Haram (Riffa), Jasim Ahmed Alshaikh (Ahli), Komail Hasan Alaswad (Riffa), Jamal Rashed Abdulrahman (Muharraq)|
|Forwards||Mahdi Faisal Alhumaidan (Ahli), Abdul Yusuf Helal (Bohemians 1905), Mohamed Saad Alromaihi (Manama), Sami Mohamed Alhusaini (East Riffa)|
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