Intercontinental Cup 2018: Defensive indolence hurt India against New Zealand

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The fixture against New Zealand was a chance for first team backups to show their mettle but they failed...

After wins against Chinese Taipei and Kenya, Indian national team head coach Stephen Constantine opted to rotate his starting lineup against New Zealand.

As a result, seven changes were made to the team which defeated Kenya and much-needed first team experience was handed out to the fringe players in the squad. Unfortunately for the desperate players keen to impress the gaffer, the chance came against a talented and spirited New Zealand side. 

India's most noticeable disadvantage was at the back where the first-choice centre-back pairing of Sandesh Jhingan and Anas Edathodika made way for Salam Ranjan Singh and Subhashish Bose.

Bose, a natural centre-back who has been playing as a full-back for the last two seasons, was deployed at the heart of the defence and he struggled throughout. There was no communication amongst defenders in the changed backline and both the goals conceded by India were ultimately down to a lack of defensive awareness. At instances where Sandesh Jhingan and Anas Edathodika would have worked in tandem to take charge of the defensive third, the reserve Indian defence struggled for survival against the likes of Sarpreet Singh and De Jong. 

India vs Chinese Taipei

After a testing first-half for the Indian defence, Sunil Chhetri opened the scoring for India at the start of the second-half in fortuitous circumstances. A poor back-pass forced the Kiwi goalkeeper to rush his clearance which ricocheted of an onrushing Chhetri and rolled into the net. 

Indian origin youngster Sarpreet Singh has arguably been the best player of the tournament so far and the forward posed difficult questions to the second-string Indian defence throughout the game. He assisted Andre De Jong for the equaliser.

The Indian defence failed to maintain the offside trap making it easy for De Jong to slot the ball past Amrinder. A similar story unfurled four minutes from the full-time whistle when Sarpreet once again carved the unorganized defence open to assist Moses Dyer's match-winner.

It must be noted that India's defence earned plenty of praise against Chinese Taipei and Kenya. Now the real question is: who will replace the trusted centre-back pairing of Sandesh Jhingan and Anas Edathodika if and when the need arises?

Sunil Chhetri India

The story isn't too different at other areas of the field. Rowllin Borges failed to influence proceedings in midfield after replacing Pronay Halder in the lineup. Ashique Kuruniyan tried to do too much whenever he received the ball and his inexperience meant that he ended up making the wrong decisions in the attacking third. 

The match against New Zealand has posed serious questions over the strength of the Indian squad. The first-team has been doing their job reasonably well but what if one of the trusted performers get injured?

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