MBPJ Stadium, Petaling Jaya, Kuala Lumpur
25th March, 2011 – 1:30 PM IST

The Indian juggernaut is rolling again. After a disastrous Asia Cup campaign, Team India are back again in winning mode. With back to back wins against Chinese Taipei and arch rivals Pakistan, Bob Houghton’s men have qualified for the AFC Challenge Cup 2012 with a game to spare. Their last group game against Turkmenistan gives the Englishman a chance to try out new options and test his bench strength. Eyebrows were certainly raised when Bob omitted the likes of Climax Lawrence, Clifford Miranda, Mahesh Gawli and Renedy Singh from the squad but the performance of the current Indian team which has plenty of young faces has given us hope for the future.

They started the tournament quietly against Chinese Taipei taking 30 minutes to open the scoring against their not so fancied opponents. But they played a much better game against Pakistan controlling the game right from the start. The movement and passing against Pakistan was as good as it gets.

All is going well for the “Blue Tigers”

Team News and Tactical Brief:


The defense has been the cornerstone of India’s success so far. Bob tried Raju Gaikwad and Gourmangi Singh against Chinese Taipei and in the game against Pakistan partnered the Manipuri with Anwar Ali. In both the games the defence looked solid with Gourmangi Singh sharing the bulk of the defensive burden in both games. Govin Singh at right back and N.S. Manju at left back have started both games so far. Bob Houghton will in all likelihood hand a start to Denzil Franco in the final game against Turkmenistan. Nirmal Chhetri could also make an appearance.

The new look midfield has performed exceedingly well in the twin games so far. Except for Steven Dias none of the rest were regular starters for Team India. Rakesh Masih replacing Climax Lawrence in the centre of midfield has looked solid in both games. Although he has played against much weaker opposition than what Climax faced in the Asia Cup he has showed that he is quite capable of filling in Climax’s big boots. However his ball distribution skills can certainly improve- something that Houghton and the team management needs to work on. Jagpreet in the centre has been a perfect foil for Masih going forward and helping in attack. He has moved up the pecking order dislodging the talented Jewel Raja which indicates a sign of healthy competition. Steven Dias on the right with plenty of experience behind him has once again been a revelation on the right while Syed Rahim Nabi has showed plenty of promise and is relishing the role of moving forward from midfield after having been forced to pay left back for most of his Indian career. One can expect Bob to tinker with the midfield against Turkmenistan. Joaquim Abranches and Shilton D’Silva will definitely get a look in. Joaquim after being with the India U-23’s for quite a while and has finally graduated to the senior team. He will be keen to make an impression and cement his place for the final rounds of qualifying.

Jeje Lalpekhlua has been the India’s standout performer so far scoring three goals so far including a brace against bitter enemies Pakistan. He has been brilliant in both of the games and certainly looks a well oiled machine. The stint with Indian Arrows has done his game a world of good. Once again he will shoulder the burden of getting India on the scoresheet. Sunil Chhetri after doing his bit in the earlier games could be given a rest as Houghton tries to weigh his options in attack as he builds the team for the future.


Turkmenistan on the other hand have been in ravaging form winning 3-0 against Pakistan and 2-0 against Chinese Taipei. Gochgolyev Gochguly has been The Rock Of Gibraltar for them at the heart of defence. Annageldiyev Begli has partnered Gochguly at the centre of defence and both have formed a water tight defence that is yet to concede in the two games that they have played. Turkmenistan have also got goals from midfield through the likes of  Hanveldiyev Guvanch and  Amanov Aslanmyrat. We can expect a lively attacking performance form Turkmenistan who have showed plenty of desire to go forward and get goals. Shamuradov Berdy and Karadanov Namedaly will be the men to watch out for in attack. This promises to be a good game of attacking football.

With both teams having already qualified the pressure will be less and both teams will push forward. India beat Turkmenistan in their previous meeting in the AFC Challenge in 2008 with Bhaichung Bhutia scoring both goals at the Gachibowli Stadium in Hyderabad.  Its time for an encore at the MBJ Stadium.

TheHardTackle’s Prediction

India 2-1 Turkmenistan