World Cup Qualifiers: 5 talking points from the Iran - India encounter

Goal picks up the major talking points after the Blue Tigers went down fighting against the highest-ranked country of the continent...
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BY ATANU MITRA
( @Atanu00 )

India suffered their sixth loss in the last seven World Cup qualifier matches as Iran flexed their muscles in a 4-0 win on Thursday. The main five talking points from the game have been listed below:

Late collapse takes away the feel good factor 

Even the biggest supporters of the national team had not hoped for a win when the Blue Tigers , sans the services of a certain Sunil Chhetri took the field against mighty Iran, who are the highest ranked country in the continent. However, at the half-time whistle the Indian football fraternity were relieved to see the scoreline as the away team was trailing by a single goal even though Iran had never lost the footing in the game.

The floodgates opened midway into the second half as the Men in Blue  conceded three more goals. While a scoreline of 1-0 or 2-0 against Carlos Queiroz's side would have been a moral boost ahead of the nation's very important encounter against Turkmenistan next Tuesday, the second half goals took the shine off what was a spirited display by a young Indian side. With that, the feel good factor waned away.

Arnab Mondal dropped or rested?

Arnab Mondal, one of the senior-most players in the squad was not part of the starting XI on Thursday. The East Bengal central defender has failed to emulate his sublime form of last season, but still remains one of the best defenders of the country. Constantine has also shown his faith in the former United Sports footballer, who was given the captain's armband against Oman last year. So, in all likelihood, Stephen wanted to save him for the all-important Turkmenistan match, given the fact that the defender was booked in the away match against Guam and another yellow card would have ruled him out of the Kochi tie. However, Arnab was also dropped by East Bengal coach Biswajit Bhattacharya in the club's last tie against Aizawl FC and so there is a chance that his bad patch for the Kolkata club could be the reason behind Constantine selecting Augustin Fernandes ahead of him. It will be interesting to know Constantine's views about the same.

Udanta Kumam's debut performance got better with time   

Udanta Kumam, the Bengaluru FC striker became the latest entrant in the never ending list of footballers who have been handed their senior national team debuts by Stephen Constantine in the last 378 days. The 19-year-old Manipur lad remained largely anonymous in the first half as India struggled to get into the opposition half. However, things got better after the change of ends as India saw more of the ball in the second half and the Manipur striker also grew in confidence. On a couple of occasions, he shielded the ball well from the big Iranian bodies and showed glimpses of his crisp passing. He had also made a good run in the second half but failed to feed Jeje Lalpekhlua, who was lurking inside the Iran box.

Gurpreet Singh Sandhu stars for India 

The Stabaek FC goalkeeper had joined the squad after their camp in New Delhi and proved his worth once again, pulling off a number of outstanding saves through the course of the match. The former East Bengal custodian had a very busy day between the sticks and had to make the first diving save when the game was only two minutes old. While the towering figure looked confident in the six yard box, he was unfortunate to concede two goals from penalty-kicks and another from a set-piece. His best save of the day came in the second half, when he stretched his right hand in reflex to keep out a toe poke from close range by Pezman Montazeri. It seems like the 25-year-old has cemented his place in the first XI with this performance and Debjit Majumder will have to wait on the fringes for longer period of time.

Defending set-pieces a major concern

While Sandesh Jhingan came up with a number of important blocks and tackles, the Indian defense was always struggling in the deadball situations. On at least three occasions in the first half, an Iranian player was left unmarked inside the Indian territory but luck helped Jeje and co. to get away with those silly mistakes. However, they paid the price after the break, when a innocuous corner-kick went past a number of Indian shirts before Azmoun sent it into the net. A few minutes later, Narayan Das committed a school-boy error as his routine header deep inside the box hit his hand before going out. The margin of error will be very thin against Turkmenistan and the British gaffer will have to ensure that his troops defend set-pieces better.