After a disappointing start to the 2019 Asian Cup campaign, hosts UAE will be looking to defend their turf vigorously as they face India tomorrow at the Zayed Sport City Stadium in Abu Dhabi.
Their opponents, coming of a scintillating victory over the Thais, will surely realize the need to pull all strings possible to draw up any positive results against the Emiratis. Their 4 – 1 victory in the opener has boosted morale across the squad with that morale translating into the possibility of qualifying to the next round.
Here is what you need to know prior to the kick-off.
The two nations have a very solid relationship between the two given the fact that almost 2 million Indians call UAE their second home.
UAE has always had the upper hand over the Indians in the past few matches played at a competitive level. The Emiratis had won eight from 13 matches played against India, with two losses and three ending in a tie.
India’s performance in the Asian Cup:
While the nation is famously known for withdrawing from the 1950 World Cup due to the unified belief suggesting FIFA’s ban on players who play barefoot, the nation has had a decent history on the Asian front.
India had finished runners-up to hosts and champions Israel in the 3rd edition of the tournament in 1964. Since then the nation had made its way through to two more editions, exiting the tournament in group stages in both cases.
Head coach – Stephen Constantine who is on his second stint with this side will be raring to go as they ended the 2018 international fixture with six wins, four losses and two ties.
The Indians, led by star captain Sunil Chettri, managed to score four in their match which was open to either team to take points away from, eventually resulting in the historic first win in any Asian Cup tournaments. The captain himself had a brace and will be looking to increasing his tally against Emiratis.
One’s to watch:
India: Kumam Udanta Singh remains one of the key players because of his speed. India will use him to launch counters.
UAE: After netting his first 2019 Asian Cup goal against Bahrain from the spot, the team will look at Ahmad Khalil to bolster the attacking options Stuart Armstrong will head into Saturday’s game full of confidence. The midfielder joined Southampton in the summer from Scottish champions Celtic, and is beginning to adapt to life in English football.
Perspective on how India will approach this match:
“They will still play defensively and try to hit uae on the counters. Just like they did in the first half today.”
Mihir Vasavda - Football writer with The Indian Express.
“I believe that if Ahmed and Mabkhout play together, we can go further. We suffer from our ability to score, so we will need to have an additional player in the front.”
Hasan Al-Hammadi – Emirati Football expert; views can be found on twitter via @UAEsoccer.
UAE will need to pull out all the cards possible to take away the much needed three points. It is expected that Ahmad Khalil could be involved in some capacity from the beginning however it is highly likely that he will not feature for the entire 90 (will depend on how the game carries on).
Khalfan Mubarak barely featured in the first game while also finding it difficult to connect with Ali Mabkhout as they usually have done so at Al-Jazira. Hence, there could be a possibility of Ismael Matar receiving the call-up.
Another player that impressed in the first match was Mohammed Abdulrahman who was introduced as a sub in the second half. While, he was lumbering in the first few minutes, his ability to defend and provide the support and setting up plays in the attacking half could be vital as well.
UAE was hurt by some lax luster defending which is not uncommon with this set-up so any long balls played into the defensive four could throw them off balance. Additionally, the side would also have to keep an eye out on every opportunity Sunil Chettri earns to run at the center backs, as his pace could dethrone the less agile defenders.
I do realize that UAE has a unique flair in throwing away games against minnows hence I would not be surprised if the Indians cause an upset resulting in Emiratis dropping much needed points.