Balewadi Sports Complex, Pune
4th Oct, 2010 – 18:00 IST
The Indian national team faces Hong Kong in an international friendly to be played at Pune’s Balewadi Sports Complex in a bid to prepare itself for the upcoming Asia Cup.
India is yet to register a win against Hong Kong, who are currently ranked 136th in the latest FIFA world rankings. In the previous two meetings, the ‘Men in Blue’ were held to a 2-2 draw by their Asian counterparts in the year 2006, while they succumbed to a 1-2 defeat in the game played in January’09.
Hong Kong has a pretty rich football history at the Asian level. As the host nation, they had finished 2nd runners-up in the 1956 Asian Cup. They were fourth in the 1964 Asia Cup and finished a place lower in the next edition. From 1970 onwards, Hong Kong football slumped to a steady decline and the nation could not qualify for any of the later editions of the Asian Cup, including the tournament to be played next year in Qatar.
Hong Kong’s last international friendly resulted in a goalless draw against Yemen. Coach Tsang Wai Chung believes it will be an exciting affair against India and he is hopeful of a victory even though Hong Kong is set to miss few of the key players due to injury. The World Cup qualifiers being their prime objective, they are focusing on gaining valuable experience for the young players. The Hong Kong coach revealed that he prefers the 4-4-2 formation and the team is expected to deploy similar tactics in this match as well.
Chan Wai Ho is the most recognized player in the opposition camp, who currently plays for Rangers as a central defender. Li Haiqiang, the skipper of the team, is an exceptional ball player and known for his brilliant dead ball specialty. He astonishing free kick in Barclays Asia Trophy 2007 tournament for South China against Liverpool, when he scored a terrific goal from approximately 40-yards out, made its way into Hong Kong folklore. The goal embarrassed Liverpool goalkeeper Scott Carson and brought back the memories of Ronaldinho‘s wonder goal against David Seaman in the 2002 World Cup. Chan Siu-Ki is the most prolific goalscorer for his country scoring 26 international goals in just 32 matches. Indian defenders should remain cautious against this 6’2” striker’s brilliant aerial skills.
Bob Houghton has similar injury woes in his own squad to deal with. Bhaichung Bhutia, Samir Naik, Mahesh Gawli, Steven Dias, N.P.Pradeep and Mohammed Rafi – all are nursing injuries. In the absence of regular starters, it will be a huge opportunity for the fringe players to make a mark in this match.
Subrata Pal is a certainty in goal, while Anwar and Gourmangi will be guarding the central defense. Surkumar is expected to start on the right back position and in the absence of Mahesh Gawli, N.S. Manju will shoulder the responsibility of marshaling the left side of Indian defense.
Steven Dias fitness will be assessed before the start of the match and if he is not up to mark yet, Anthony Perreira will take over the right wing; in that case Clifford Miranda will play on the left wing. Veteran Climax Lawrence and Renedy Singh will play as the central midfielders in the absence of regular starter N.P. Pradeep.
Captain Baichung Bhutia sustained a hamstring pull in a late substitute appearance against Namibia in the last match, while Mohammed Rafi is also nursing similar injuries. The situation in hand is exactly like the match against Namibia. Sunil Chhetri and Abhishek Yadav remain the two fully-fit strikers for India and Bob Houghton will expect another good display from this young combo.
Probable Starting Line-up (India):
Subrata, Surkumar, Gaurmangi, Anwar, Manju, Anthony, Renedy, Climax, Miranda, Abhishek, Sunil.
Last Five International Friendly Results:
|29/8/2009||India vs Syria||0-1|
|31/08/2009||India vs Syria||6-5|
|4/9/2010||Thailand vs India||1-0|
|8/9/2010||India vs Thailand||1-2|
|15/9/2010||India vs Namibia||2-0|
|6/1/2010||Bahrain vs Hong Kong||4-0|
|7/2/2010||Korea Republic vs Hong Kong||5-0|
|11/2/2010||Japan vs Hong Kong||3-0|
|14/2/2010||China vs Hong Kong||2-0|
|3/32010||Hong Kong vs Yemen||0-0|
TheHardTackle’s Player to watch out for:
Subrata Pal (India):
The Pune FC goalkeeper had brilliant outings for India in the recent past. He was the only saving grace for the Bhangra Boys in the defeats against the Thai national team. He continued his amazing performance against Namibia as well and earned a clean sheet in that 2-0 victory. Paul has been the protagonist in almost all major victories for India in the last couple of years. Expect another solid performance from the India no. 1.
The Flying Machine – Subrata Pal –
India 1- 0 Hong Kong