Yamaha Stadium, Bangkok
4th September, 2010: 4:30 PM IST
In its first international match since the triumph of 2009 Nehru Cup, Team India is all set to take on Thailand in a friendly encounter to be played at Yamaha Stadium in Bangkok on 4th of September 2010. Team India have just wrapped up an impressive Portugal tour with 6 wins, 2 draws and 2 defeats against Portuguese second and third division outfits, and immediately after the training program in Portugal, this will be an ideal opportunity to measure the team’s improvement ahead of 2011 Asia Cup.
The Thai national football team is currently ranked 104th, 34 places above India in the latest FIFA rankings and placed at 16th position in the AFC rankings. Team Thailand is an excellent mix of young and experienced players and their coach, former England and Manchester United Legend Bryan Robson has called up quite a few promising Under-23 players for this friendly match. The team has defeated Singapore by a solitary goal in their last international friendly tie last month and the coach is looking forward to build on a promising squad and gain important exposure ahead of the 2010 Asian Games. The fact that Thailand remain unbeaten on their home soil since November 2009 will be an added boost of confidence for this talented bunch of young footballers.
Goalkeeper Kawin Thamsatchanan, who has been reportedly recommended to Manchester United goalkeeping coach Eric Steele by Robson, is a player to watch out for. He helped his club side Muangthong United to clinch the Thai Premier League with an inspirational display below the bar; which in-turn helped him to cement his place as the first choice goalkeeper in the national team. Experienced striker Sarayoot Chaikamdee, the scorer of the solitary goal in the win against Singapore, will be a real threat for the Indian defence. Everton’s youth product Teeratep “Leesaw” Winothai is expected to partner Chaikamdee in the Thai attack. The key player for Thailand is their gifted play-maker Datsakorn Thonglao, who has the experience of playing in top flight European football for German Bundesliga side Kaiserslautern FC. Thonglao is known for his excellent passing abilities and scoring amazing goals from dead ball situations – Indian defense should remain careful in not conceding any unnecessary free-kicks near the box as this can prove to be a recipe for disaster against a player of Thonglao’s calibre.
Indian coach Bob Houghton is expected to field the strongest possible team, sans star striker Baichung Bhutia. Baichung is short of match practice after recovering from injury and may be used only as a late second half substitute. In his absence, veteran midfielder Renedy Singh will assume the duty of the acting captain. Kansas City Wizard striker Sunil Chhetri, who scored a couple of braces in the recently concluded Portugal tour, will partner an in-form Mohammed Rafi in the striking department. Rafi had a wonderful I-League season last year being the top Indian goal-scorer and since his national call-up, he has impressed one and all with his amazing goal scoring ability. In the absence of Baichung, this is the perfect occasion for him to secure his place in the squad as the third striker with another shining display.
In the Portugal tour, Bob Houghton experimented with the midfield combination by fielding different sets of players. Renedy Singh was tried out of position in the central midfield from his preferred left wing position. It seems the coach is willing to use Renedy’s excellent ball distribution skill to greater effect by putting him in the playmakers role and he may look to continue with the same set-up in this match as well.
N.P. Pradeep is a certainty in the central midfield. If Renedy is selected to partner Pradeep, in that case Climax Lawrence will have to warm the bench and may be used as a substitute later in the second half. Steven “David Beckham” Dias will be playing on the right wing and will look for whipping in quality crosses for the Sunil-Rafi combo to poach in. Anthony Pereira is expected to play full 90 minutes on the left wing – as the other left winger Rahim Nabi is ruled out of the tie with a hamstring pull.
Indian defence looks pretty settled with a host of quality players. Consistent impressive performances by Gaurmangi Singh and Anwar Ali have relegated the more experienced central defence pairing of Mahesh Gawli – Deepak Mandal to the substitutes’ bench. Surkumar Singh remains the preferred right back in Houghton’s era and a fit again N.S. Manju is expected to fill in the left full back position. Ever reliable Subrata Pal will be the very first name to be put down on the team-sheets and his mere presence under the bar will be enough to instill confidence in the defensive line-up.
Although these friendly matches are being played mainly for the purpose of providing the team with international exposure, both the coaches will be looking to infuse a winning mentality in the players ahead of more sterner tests. Expect both the teams to fight out a battle and grind out result in their favor before the return leg of the tie, which is scheduled to be played at the Ambedkar Stadium, New Delhi on 8th of September.
Both these teams last met in the year 2003 in Bangkok and Thailand came out superior in that friendly match with a 2-0 win over their Asian rivals.
TheHardTackle’s Indian Starting Line-up:
Subrata, Surkumar, Gaurmangi, Anwar, Manju, Anthony, Renedy, Pradeep, Steven, Rafi, Sunil.
TheHardTackle’s Player to Watch out for:
Sunil Chhetri (India):
The star striker will be India’s prime hope for scoring goals. He is in terrific form and will look to continue his impressive display in the national colors. After joining the national team in the Portugal training camp, he played in four tour matches and scored as many goals – with a couple of braces against second division outfit Sertanense and third division club Uniao Serra.
TheHardTackle’s Prediction: Thailand 1-1 India