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Indian wingers need massive improvement ahead of Asian Cup 2019

11:22 AM MYT 15/06/2018
India vs Chinese Taipei Udanta Singh
The performance of Halicharan Narzary and Udanta Singh was sub-par during the Intercontinental Cup...

On June 10, India successfully won the Intercontinental Cup 2018 by beating Kenya 2-0 in the final. A brace from Sunil Chhetri was enough to seal a comfortable win and their second international trophy in two years.

During the course of the tournament, players in almost every position put in a commendable shift. They scored 11 goals in four matches and conceded just twice. They also managed to maintain three clean-sheets in four games. 

Sunil Chhetri operated in the hole just behind lone striker Jeje Lalpekhlua. Halicharan Narzary and Udanta Singh were deployed on the left and right wing respectively while Pronay Halder and Anirudh Thapa operated in central midfield. The back-line consisted of Pritam Kotal, Sandesh Jhingan, Anas Edathodika and Subhasish Bose with Gurpreet Singh Sandhu under the woodwork.

This was Constantine’s best XI which started in India’s three out of the four matches in the Intercontinental Cup. He only altered the line-up once against New Zealand when qualification was all but assured.

The back four and the goalkeeper were simply outstanding throughout the competition. Although in the final we did get to see a few individual errors which could be punished at the Asian Cup, they did manage to ensure that their citadel wasn't breached.

In central midfield, we saw the resurgence of Pronay Halder who returned to the national side after a prolonged injury period and the emergence of Anirudh Thapa who had a fantastic Indian Super League (ISL) season with champions Chennaiyin FC.

While Pronay was deployed in a defensive midfield role, Thapa would often tend to move forward and help in attack. He combined well with Chhetri and Jeje upfront and produced some quality moves which led to a few goals.

Chhetri was outstanding throughout the tournament and played like a true leader. He was an ever-present threat in the attacking third and also scored the lion’s share of goals for India. Jeje too was no less as he complimented his captain perfectly in the final third.

The only area where India did struggle was on the flanks. Constantine once again kept his faith on Halicharan Narzary who had a very average season with NorthEast United in the ISL last time. While Halicharan’s work rate on the pitch is commendable and cannot be denied, he couldn't deliver crosses on a consistent basis.

The Assamese winger was hard working and ran to and fro down the flanks but he failed to deliver quality balls into the box. Similarly, Udanta Singh had an average outing in national colours during the Intercontinental Cup.

The Bengaluru FC youngster generated pace while moving down the right flank as usual but failed to deliver in the crucial moments. Although he did score a goal, his contribution otherwise wasn't noteworthy. His finishing is atrocious and many a times despite getting into good positions, his decision making leaves a lot to be desired.

Ashique Kuruniyan hardly impressed duriing his time on the field. Although it must be mentioned that this was his maiden tournament for the Blue Tigers. 

India didn't win a single corner in the final against Kenya which only highlights the poor effort from the two wingers. In fact the Kenyans had nine corners. In International football, set-pieces are crucial to score goals. Unfortunately for India, the two wingers have been in shoddy form.

With the Asian Cup less than seven months away, Narzary and Udanta need to work on their crossing abilities. The other nine players put in a much better shift than those occupying the flanks.