India’s friendly clash with the formidable China on October 13 at the Suzhou Olympic Sports Centre Stadium in Jiangsu is set to be a historic one. The clash between the two Asia neighbours will be the 18th time they have met in history and the first time they have locked horns on Chinese soil.
While notching up a historic win over China in their own backyard will be the first and foremost thing on the mind of the Blue Tigers, they will be mindful of their poor record away from home.
They might have seen a recent upturn in their away form but historically, India have undeniably been poor travellers.
Now, India are ready to play a pedigreed opponent away from home. History will not be on the side of him and the rest of the Blue Tigers on Saturday.
India have had chastening experiences in their travels for friendly games in recent past. They have lost to Singapore, Oman and Azerbaijan in 2012. The following year saw Tajikistan beat them 3-0 before a humiliating loss against Guam followed in 2015 in a 2018 World Cup qualifier game away. Turkmenistan and Oman had also beaten India in the qualifiers.
That is not to say that India did not achieve any away victories in the last decade. A 2-1 at Qatar in 2011 came in an unrecognised friendly while there have been official ‘away’ wins in multi-team events like the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championships and the AFC Challenge Cup.
Of late, there has been a minor improvement in India’s away form with a victory against Laos being followed by wins in Cambodia, Myanmar and Macao.
However, the Blue Tigers will be wary of the outcome of their most recent clash away from (excluding SAFF Cup) home when they went down 0-1 to Kyrgyz Republic in their final Asian Cup qualifier in March this year.
China will be a tough nut to crack for Stephen Constantine and his men at any venue, be it at home, away or neutral. But, what India will desperately want is to shed their image as abysmal travellers.
An away win at the heart of the Dragon might just be the fillip India needs ahead of their highly anticipated participation in the AFC Asian Cup next year.
What fans in India want to see is that the team at least puts up a courageous fight as opposed to go down meekly.