Rasmee Dhandu Stadium, Male
July 10, 2011
India will look to utilize this match against Maldives as a buildup to their high-charged World Cup qualifier against UAE. This match will be Armando Colaco’s first real test as national coach. Former Real Madrid manager and current Iran coach Carlos Quiroz is supposed to be present in this match in order to gauge his team’s next opponent – Maldives.
Maldives (FIFA Ranking – 151)
After getting elected last year, Maldives’ President Mohammad Nasheed declared that the entire nation of Maldives was contemplating about moving to a different location. No, it was not delirium. Thanks to global warming Maldives is sinking into the sea at an alarming pace. In last 100 years it has risen 20 centimeters and UN expects it to rise a further 58 centimeters by 2100. The tiny nation might be getting a sinking feeling with regards to its existence but that’s hardly the feeling regarding their football team. Maldives, with a population of mere 300,000 has emerged as one of the most gallant outfits in South Asian Zone. Since 1997, when the “Red Snappers” began taking part in the SAFF Cup, Maldives have never finished outside top-4 in the tournament.
Maldives have played in four SAFF Cup finals out of a possible six. In 2008, their greatest footballing moment came when they defeated Bob Houghton’s India to lift the trophy. Maldives president as well as eleven thousand supporters witnessed that historic win. Continuing the positive trend Maldives did exceptionally well in AFC Challenger Cup qualifier few months back. Playing in front of their home crowd, Maldives topped group C with seven points from three games and defeated Cambodia 4-0 on the way.
Ali Ashfaq, Maldives captain and ace striker, scored a hattrick against Cambodia but will miss out this match due to an injury. In his absence Ibrahim Fazeel and Assad Ali will shoulder the responsibilities in the striking department. VB Sports Club’s striker Adam Lareef has also been included in the squad. Veteran ‘keeper Imran Mohammad has been an integral part for the Red Snappers in last decade. He was instrumental behind Maldives’ triumph in SAFF Cup with several sharps saves in the final. He also played a big part in VB Sports Club’s back-to-back Maldives League titles in the last two seasons. VB SC will provide nine players to the national team including a large portion of defense where club-mates Fairooz Adam, Ahmed Saeed, Abdullah Haneef will be vying for a starting spot.
Andrés Cruciani, current national coach and a former U20 Argentina international, has been highly critical about this fixture. He mentioned that Maldives needed to play against stronger teams before their world cup qualifiers against Iran. Iran inflicted Maldives’ most embarrassing loss in football, hammering them 17-0 in 1997.
Latest Update: Ali Ashfaq has been included in the squad after X-Rays revealed that his injuries are not so serious. It remains to be seen if he will take part in this match.
Possible Starting XI: Mohamed Imran, Ahmed Saeed, Assad Abdul Ghanee, Akram Abdul Ghanee, Mohamed Umair, Mohamed Arif, Shamveel Qasim, Ismail Mohamed, Mukhthar Naseer, Ibrahim Fazeel, Thoriq
Sunil Chhetri has been linked to Benfica recently
India (FIFA Ranking – 147)
Armando Colaco would certainly have liked to have a better buildup to his first competitive fixture. Indian team has been plagued by logistical issues in last few days. Rocas Lamare, Khlemba Singh and Gilbert Oliviera could not join the team because of passport issues while Harmajot Khabra almost missed the flight because the team manager took wrong passport instead of his. The Indian team arrived in Male on Thursday and had its first practice session on Friday.
Colaco has been using a 4-4-2 formation in training and it looks likely that Sunil Chhetri will be partnering Jeje upfront. Colaco is likely to place more faith on his Dempo players, so it is expected that a number of players from the Goan team will make it to starting XI. The central defense will be marshaled by Gourmangi Singh and Mahesh Gawli, while Samir Naik will start on the flanks. It will be interesting to see if Colaco follows Houghton’s foot-steps and uses Nabi as a full-back; otherwise Denzil Franco will start.
Mehtab Hussain has been impressive in training matches and it looks likely that he will start alongside captain Climax Lawrence as central midfielders. Clifford Miranda and Steven Dias are most likely to play on the wings.
In Dempo, Colaco’s formation was immensely helped by the presence of Brazilian Beto. Beto’s natural flair and ball skills made Dempo’s system extremely fluid. In National team Colaco doesn’t have a player of the Brazilian’s caliber and it will be intriguing to see how he adjusts.
Latest Update: Reports suggest that Sunil Chhetri will don captain’s arm band. Colaco will be putting out a 4-5-1 system.
Possible Starting XI: Subrata Pal; Naik, Gourmangi, Raju, Debabrata; Dias, Mehtab, Climax, Nabi, Carvalho; Chhetri
Imran Mohammad (Maldives), Sunil Chhetri (India)
Maldives has always proved to be tricky opponent for India and they are usually strong at home. Armando Colaco’s team is up for a tough test and might find it difficult to defeat the Red Snappers. Maldives plays a counter-attack based game which will help them in front of the local crowd.
Maldives 2-2 India