Country: Kyrgyz Republic
FIFA Ranking: 132
Nickname: The White Falcons
Last official match played: Kyrgyz Republic 1-0 Macau (28th March 2017)
Coach: Aleksandr Krestinin
A nation born out of the fall of the mighty erstwhile Soviet Union, Kyrgyzstan is one of the sparsely populated craggy terrains in northern Central Asia. It has only been twenty-five years since the existence of their national football team and it comes as no surprise that they have not qualified for any of the continental showpiece tournament finals, yet.
Although, the Kyrgyz were sporadic participants in the now defunct AFC Challenge Cup, appearing in alternate years since 2006. Their best result was a bronze-medal finish in the inaugural edition in Bangladesh; post that, they just made up the numbers in 2010 and 2014.
Kyrgyz Republic broke into FIFA ranking's top 100 for the very first time in October 2016, less than four years after being pushed into near oblivion as they were ranked 201st in early 2013. The tables seem to have turned in terms of rankings; while India were battling mid 150s, Kyrgyzstan were flirting near the double-digit mark since early 2015. However, twin sets of losses to Philippines and Australia in the last two years have dented their progress and sent them currently 32 places behind India.
Pushed into Group B of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup/ 2018 FIFA World Cup joint-qualification, the Falcons finished third behind Jordan and heavyweights Australia. Suffering the same fate as the Blue Tigers, the landlocked nation has a chance to make history as they are pitted against the subcontinent team, Myanmar and Macau. In their opening game, they defeated Macau by a solitary goal at home, arriving in India level on points with their hosts.
|Lessons from the past|
|HEAD -TO-HEAD||PLAYED||INDIA WINS||DRAWS||KYRGYZSTAN WINS||GOALS BY INDIA||GOALS BY KYRGYZSTAN||GOAL DIFFERENCE [INDIA]|
|INDIA vs KYRGYZSTAN||3||2||0||1||6||3||+3|
Kyrgyzstan remains one of the few nations that the Indians have a better head-to-head record with, albeit in three games. The Central Asian nation were invited to successive Nehru Cup tournaments in 2007 and 2009, where India got the better of them on both occasions.
In the 2010 AFC Challenge Cup in Sri Lanka, the Falcons replied back 2-1 with one of the goals for the Kyrgyz scored by Ildar Amirov, who played a couple of games for Indian club East Bengal last season.
There will be two enforced changes from the eleven that took the field against Macau in March. Left-back Valery Kichin is injured so Umarov Akramjon should be ushered in. Ghanaian-born Daniel Tagoe has been ousted by Krestinin. Tamirlan Kozubaev is the frontrunner to replace him at the heart of defense.
German-borns, Victor Maier and Edgar Bernhardt will be constant threats on the right channel for Stephen Constantine's side. Talisman Mirlan Murzaev will support lone striker Vitaly Lux on the attacking front. Goalkeeper Pavel Matiash, who plays for Maldivian side Maziya S&RC will be familiar with most of the Indian players given Bengaluru FC and Mohun Bagan players both faced him in the past couple of months in the AFC Cup.
Midfielder Bektur uulu Talgat, who shone for Churchill Brothers in the recently concluded I-League finds no place in the travelling party. Instead, he has been demoted to the U-23 squad who look to qualify for the U-23 Asian Cup in China next year.
|Players To Watch Out For|
Mirlan Murzaev: The perfect deep-lying centre-forward, Murzaev is expected to be a handful for the Indian defenders. A threat both on and off the ball, the 27-year-old is also effective in the air. His five goals from 29 appearances do not reflect his importance to the Kyrgyz side but consider him to be the danger man, lurking around in spaces behind the striker to poach and deliver the final punch to the opposition.
Azamat Baymatov: The leader in defence, Baymatov is a well-travelled centre back currently plying his trade at Riffa SC in Bahrain. Baymatov's task will be to stop the Indian striker and nip attacking moves in the bud. His physical presence and towering height are sure to intimidate the Blue Tigers.
GOALKEEPERS: Pavel Matiash, Kaszuba Valery, Kalys Akimaliev;
DEFENDERS: Tamirlan Tahir Avchiev Kozubaev, Umarov Akramjon, Ilyas Alimov, Victor Maier, Amanbek Manybekov, Vladimir Kazakbaev, Azamat Baymatov;
MIDFIELDERS: Bakhtiar Duyshobekov, Farhat Musabekov, Edgar Bernhardt, Mirlan Murzaev, Pavel Sidorenko, Murolimzhon Akhmedov, Ahlidin Israilov, Anton Zemlyanukhin, Shamshiev Islam, Abdrakhmanov Odil;
FORWARDS: Vitaly Lux, Kayrat uulu Jygalbek.
Follow Swapnaneel Parasar on Twitter - @Swapyo