INDIA
vs
YEMEN

Balewandi Stadium, Pune
13.10.2010, 19:00

India came back to form with a thumping 3-1 win over Vietnam. It was a welcome victory, with India dominating most of the game. Ace striker Sunil Chhetri fired on all cylinders, scoring a hattrick.

Bob Houghton would be bolstered by the performance of debutant Baldip Singh,  who did a solid if unspectacular job in the midfield, winning possession when needed. Centre-backs Gourmangi and Anwar Ali continue to improve in the heart of the defence.

India’s opponent for this match is Yemen. Yemen is not a traditional powerhouse in Asia. However, under Croatian coach Srecko Juricic, they have made improvements in recent matches. In the 2010 edition of West Asian Football Championship, they finished third;  it was a respectable showing considering that it was their debut in the tournament. They defeated Palestine 3-1, but lost narrowly to Asian Champions Iraq. In the semi-final they fought bravely against eventual champions Kuwait, before losing 4-3 in tie-breaker. Star striker and captain Ali Al-Nono topped the goal-scoring charts in the tournament, scoring four times in three games.

Yemen also has an exceptionally good record against India. The last time India managed to win was way back in 1984 in Kolkata. In last 24 years, these two teams have played seven times, with Yemen winning five. Houghton’s boys would love to change this record against Yemen. India’s previous encounter against Yemen saw the game end in a 2-1 win for the latter. Over the last twelve months, Yemen has taken a huge leap in the FIFA rankings, jumping from 132 in November 2009 to 107 in September 2010. The West Asians will host the 20th Edition of Gulf Cup next month. Expect them to take this match as a build-up to the prestigious tournament.

Yadav and Chhetri : Partners in Crime

Houghton will start with his tried and tested 4-4-2. Subrata Paul will start in goal. He is undeniably the most important player for Team India now, pulling off world class saves in every single game. Surkumar Singh and Rahim Nabi will start as right and left back respectively. Nabi’s darting runs as wing-back created chaos in Vietnam’s defence; he linked well with the wingers and Chhetri. Anwar Ali and Gourmangi would start as centre-backs.

The ever improving Anthony Perriera assisted Sunil’s second goal; he will again take up the responsibilities of right winger. Clifford Miranda was another crucial player on the opposite flank. Two of his crosses were turned into goals against Vietnam, though Nabi’s goal was canceled. In the absence of Pradeep, Baldip will start again. His physical approach to winning balls might prove invaluable against the Yemenis. Veteran Climax Lawrence will partner him as mideo in central midfield.

Baichung and Rafi are still not fit fully. In their absence, Abhishek Yadav and Chhetri will start. Yadav’s aerial ability will be important against tall Yemen defenders, and Chhetri, with his pace, is a perfect foil for Yadav. His return to form, with three goals in the last game, will be music to the ears of Indian fans. India has been plagued by poor finishing in recent game; with Chhetri roaring back into form, scoring goals may not be a problem anymore.

West Asian teams and East Asian teams have a distinct difference in their style of play. East Asian teams rely on pace and supreme fitness, while West Asians have more skills and have a more physical approach. The last time India played a West Asian nation was almost a year ago – Syria. Under Houghton, India has followed conventional English style of playing – using wings and launching crosses into the penalty box. Against Yemeni players, who are physically better developed, this style may not be fully successful. India has mostly played Eastern Asian teams in recent games, so they need to make adjustments against Yemen.

Last 5 matches

India

4/9/2010Thailand vs India1-0
8/9/2010India vs Thailand1-2
15/9/2010India vs Namibia2-0
4/10/2010India vs Hong Kong0-1
8/10/2010India vs Vietnam3-1

Yemen

7/09/2010Yemen vs Syria2-1
18/9/2010Yemen vs Zambia0-1
25/9/2010Yemen vs Iraq1-2
27/09/2010Yemen vs Palestine3-1
1/10/2010Yemen vs Kuwait1(3)-1(4)

India Starting XI

Subrata Paul; Surkumar Singh, Anwar Ali, Gourmangi Singh, Rahim Nabi; Anthony Perriera, Climax Lawrence, Baldip Singh, Clifford Miranda; Abhishek Yadav, Sunil Chhetri

THT Player to watch out for

Sunil Chhetri
The Kansas City Wizards striker rose to the occasion against Vietnam. His fine hattrick ensured that India grabbed a moral boosting win. His pace and poacher’s instinct has made him the most feared Indian striker currently. India will look to Sunil again if they are to win this encounter.