Pre-Olympic Qualifier
Youth Training Centre, Yangon
9th March, 2011 – 3:00 PM IST

Tomorrow the Indian U-23 contingent will be taking a small flight till Yangon where they will lock horns with Myanmar for the return leg of their pre- Olympic qualifier slated to take place on Wednesday. The visitors will be taking a slight advantage into the match after they emerged victorious by two goals to one in their own backyard in the first leg at the Balewadi Sports Complex in Pune last month. Only four spots separate both the teams in FIFA ranking and with home crowd support behind the Myanmar team an upset is very much on the cards.

The first round of Asian qualifiers for the London Olympics will commence in June. Eleven winners from these Pre Olympic qualifiers will take on the thirteen highest ranked teams of Asia over two legs with the first leg being played on June 9th and the second on June 23rd respectively.

Team News: India

This encounter could have easily been reduced to mere formality had the Indian colts played to their full potential in previous meeting. They must be ruing the fact that a truck load of chances had gone down begging for them which if converted could have not only given them a comfortable victory but a stronghold walking into the reverse tie at Yangon.

In spite of enjoying lion’s share of possession in the first meeting it is hard to imagine their slender advantage over the 149th ranked Myanmar.

Indian coach Desmond Bulpin has made two changes in the squad with Mohan Bagan’s N. Mohanraj missing the bus due to groin injury and East Bengal’s Nirmal Chettri facing the axe due to poor form. In fact it was the misunderstanding between Chettri and Gurpreet Singh which resulted in India conceding the crucial away goal.

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Expected Indian line up (4-4-2)

Replacing them in the final 18 will be the striker duo of C.Sabeeth and East Bengal’s Robin Singh who finally gets a call into the national team. Many believe that Jeje and Robin up front could be the best combination for Indian but going by the statement of Indian coach it’s highly unlikely whether that he will start with Singh tomorrow.

“This will be a big decision but I won’t underestimate our boys from Indian Arrows (Jeje and Fela) as the record of the other two strikers is no better which is a very important stat and a fact” Bulpin said.

One feels the game will be decided on how our midfielders Raja and D’Silva soak in the pressure from a hostile home crowd. Both of them played an exceptional first leg and were the chief architects of all the Indian moves.

Indians have a huge physical advantage over their opponents which is a rarity and Bulpin should go all out in making the most out of it against Myanmar. Nothing but a victory will satisfy the Indian fans who were left bitterly disappointed after their forwards were not able to provide with the finishing touch in the first encounter.

Team news: Myanmar

Milan Zivadinovic would be banking heavily on home crowd support when his boys step on the turf against their much fancied opponents India. Myanmar should consider themselves really lucky having scored an away goal. Moreover, the circumstances which led to the goal will most definitely be playing on the minds of the visitors. They will have to dig in deep and would have to come up with an exceptional performance if they want to trouble the Indian side.

The back line of the hosts will be tested again and they would have to put in a much better performance than what they showcased in the first leg because it’s not everyday that the finishing of Indian strikers will be that shambolic as it was in Pune.

Biggest area of concern for Zivadinovic would be the physique of his players and he should prepare his team well in advance to deal with aerial balls and set pieces which might just prove to be their achilles heels.

TheHardTackle’s Prediction:

Myanmar 1-1 India