INDIA
v
CHINESE TAIPEI

MBPJ Stadium, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia
21.03.2011 – 5:00 PM IST

India is all set to take on Chinese Taipei in a crucial AFC Challenge Cup qualifier. These teams have faced each other numerous times in past. Their most recent encounter was in 2008 when India played back to friendlies at home. India defeated Taipei 3-0 at Chennai with a brace from N Pradeep in first match while the second match ended in a 2-2 draw.


Team News and Tactical Brief:

Chinese Taipei:

Football in Taipei has a turbulent past, in sync with the nation. Chairman Mao forced Chinese FA to resign from FIFA in order to protest Chinese Taipei’s (then Taiwan) inclusion in FIFA. Like India, Chinese Taipei dominated early Asian football by winning back to back gold medals in 1954 and 1958 Asian Games. Playing as Republic of China they defeated South Korea in both finals. When China rejoined FIFA and AFC in 1974, Chinese Taipei was forced to exit from AFC as they joined Oceania Football Federation. In 1978, the team was suspended from OFC owing to name problems. For two years football in Taipei remained without a continental federation. Their wait finally ended in 1982 when they re-entered OFC under the name of ‘Chinese Taipei’, seven years later they rejoined AFC and has been a member ever since.

Ranked 154, Chinese Taipei is regarded as one of the weakest teams in AFC. They were one of the few teams who had to play a preliminary round in order to join the final qualifying round. Taipei performed brilliantly in the prelims defeating Laos 6-3 in two legs. Han Chang bagged a brace his team won 5-2 in Taipei City – sealing a passage to next qualifying round.

Chinese Taipei play a fast, counter attacking game which focuses on wing movement. They depend on crosses from their wingers to score goals – not much different to India’s strategy.


Chen Po-liang – the dangerman

Current Taipei team has several crucial players and goalkeeper Lu Kun-chi is one of them. Lu is the first player from Taipei to have played in a Japanese Professional football club and is referred to as “Taiwanese Buffon” in his home country. Lu performed bravely against India in their last meeting, despite conceding three goals. He made sharp saves to deny Baichung, Climax and Chhetri and played a big part in keeping the scoreline respectable. Fleet footed left-back Chen Yu-lin is one of main driving forces behind Taipei’s wing operations.

Twenty-two year old Chen Po-liang is Taipei’s mainstay in attacking department. Despite his young age he has already been made captain of the national team because of his impact. With nine goals in nineteen matches he is a prolific goal scorer for his attacking midfielder position. Chen scored a goal in Taipei’s 5-2 win over Laos in February. He also scored two goals in Taipei’s only victory in 2010 East Asian Championship, helping his team to a 4-2 win over Guam.

Striker Han Chang grabbed headline during the East Asian Championship when he headed in Taipei first ever goals against North Korea in a 2-1 loss. Han also scored two goals in Taipei 5-2 win over Laos. Han’s likely strike partner Lo Chih-en had a sensational debut in 2008 – scoring four goals in a 10-0 win over Guam. Both of these strikers are young and pacy – which can cause problems to Indian defence.


India:

As usual Indian football team is being wrapped by off field problems before an international tournament. AIFF almost sacked Bob Houghton after fiasco of Asian Cup (some newspapers reported that he had already been sacked). Surprisingly it turned into another classic case of all smoke and no fire (the kind only Indian FAs can deliver). Houghton returned from his vacation and promptly took control of the squad without any formal statement from AIFF. It s still not clear if Houghton will continue to be the coach as entire incident remains shrouded in mystery.

India has retained some players from Asian Cup squad – proof that Houghton is taking the Challenge Cup seriously this time (last time mostly junior players were sent under Sukhwinder Singh).

Things have changed dramatically for Sunil Chhetri in last few months. After an impressive performance in Asian Cup he was linked to Australian and Japanese clubs. He didn’t get offers from any top leagues instead lost his place in his MLS club. Sunil ended up in Chirag United, who are not even a top side in Indian football. A sharp downturn in his fortunes to say the least. Subrata, another top performer from Asian Cup also didn’t get any offers from abroad as he continues to play for Pune FC. His form in recent matches hasn’t been completely assuring either – having conceded four goals in an I-League match against Viva Kerala.

Indian football fans will be happy with the inclusion of a host of youngsters for this tournament – Raju Gaiwad, Jeje, Shilton have impressed for Indian Arrows team while Sabeeth has been one of the standout performers for Viva Kerala. Recently Sabeeth sealed India’s progress in Olympic qualifiers with a last gasp goal against Myanmar.

Houghton is likely to retain his 4-4-2 formation with Gourmangi and Raju pairing up in central defence. Sunil like likely to be partnered with Sabeeth up top with Dias and Joachim supporting them from wings. Central midfield can be a cause of concern as most players lack experience in top level International football.


TheHardTackle’s Prediction:

Chinese Taipei is one of the weaker teams in this group and India should win this match comfortably.

India 3-1 Chinese Taipei