Arthur Papas will go through his first real test after his appointment as the Indian Youth team manager when India kick off their AFC U-22 Asian Cup qualifying campaign against Lebanon on the 23rd. The tournament presents both a brilliant opportunity for the youngsters to announce their arrival as well as a harsh reality test against team of higher pedigree.
Here’s the look at the Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats that await team India.
New Coach, New approach:
Arthur Papas’ appointment as the coach of the India U-23 side has left many Indian football aficionados with the hope that the Australian can turn around the fortunes of the country. Many have become disgruntled with India’s approach to kicking the ball up-field and hoping against hope, but Papas is keen on not using that system anymore. The 32 year old coach has already said of his willingness to try out a new 4-3-3 system that could possibly see the team building attacks rather than just clearing wildly. The new coach is also keen to impress upon the side the importance of off-the-ball positioning which could prove vital for India has they will often have their backs to the wall against their opposition in the group, who Papas admitted were ones of great quality.
Players With Experience:
In Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Lalrindika Ralte, Jeje Lalpekhlua, India have 3 players who have been involved with the Indian senior side. The experience, skill and knowledge these 3 will bring will be a huge plus for the otherwise raw U-22 team. Jeje is expected to play a huge part in the tournament, but with the striker suffering from an injury the team will have to rally around Gurpreet and Ralte. They also have players who have played major roles for their teams and come in to the tournament in fine form. Quite a few players have benefited from some valuable playing time with their clubs and that should serve them in good stead.
India U-22′s main strength lies with the attackers. In-form strikers like Alywn George, Manandeep Singh can pose a threat even if Jeje misses out. The attack will be a more formidable one if Jeje manages to beat the odds and make it to the tournament.
Over-dependance On Key Players:
The India U-22 side will look to their more experienced teammates to show them the way forward. But should one of them suffer an injury or go through a bad patch, there aren’t many players the coach can count on. Jeje’s injury already has the team on tenterhooks and should Ralte or Alwyn George suffer, Papas’ boys will need to punch above their weight against top-class opposition if they are to leave an impact.
Adapting To The Ideologies and Tactics of The New System:
The appointment of Arthur Papas not long before the tournament has left the team with a lot to do if they are to understand and employ the Australian’s tactics on the field. If the moves does come off it could work wonders for the young team but there are equal chances of the team failing to cope with what they learned over the past few days. It would be harsh to expect the team to unlearn what Sukhwinder Singh had taught them and incorporate Papas’ ideas immediately. Singh preferred a more direct approach while Papas focuses more on building the attack.
Lack of Match Practice:
India were to play 4 warm-up games before they face Lebabon to kick their campaign off. Two of the matches came against local teams that didn’t really offer the colts a test. So, in effect, the youngsters would get 2 chances to prove themselves while the coach has to go with his instincts in choosing the team. The sudden change in intensity and skill level when the tournament kicks off too could be tough for the colts to manage.
Step Up In Class and Skill:
While the group India is placed in may be toughest in the competition, it gives the players and the coach an opportunity to test themselves against the toughest opposition. The exposure will also go a long way in molding the young footballers for the future and give them a taste of what top-rung football will be like.
Known Faces In The Team:
It is almost imperative that for a team to perform, the players must trust and understand each other and the selectors have chosen the team with the same train of though. There are many players who have played with each other before in their club sides which makes the job of a coach getting players to understand each other that much easier. Good chemistry between the players often results in players helping bring out the best in each other.
India see themselves placed alongside more esteemed opponents in the form of Iraq, Lebanon, Oman, Turkmenistan and the United Arab Emirates and will have to brace themselves for tough games, one after another. The opening game against Lebanon will prove to be vital for Papas’ boys as they can take forward the impetus a win can generate, but they will find it equally hard to break the jinx should things not go according to plan in the first game.
While the Indian colts boast of a strong attacking line up, the same cannot be said of the defense. The defenders have been largely untested against dangerous oppositions and will have to come up trumps if India are to progress to the next stage. The opponents will be a handful with their physical presence and skill with the ball at their feet and the Indian defense will have to be at the top of their game. The presence of Gurpreet in between the sticks will help the nerves for the back 4, but they should ensure the keeper doesn’t have much to do.
Goalkeepers: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (Kingfisher East Bengal), Ravi Kumar (Pailan Arrows), Soram Poirei Angamba (Shillong Lajong FC).
Defenders: Pritam Kotal, Vishal Kumar, Souvik Ghosh, Prathamesh Maulingkar, Deepak Devrani (all from Pailan Arrows), Narayan Das, Yumnam Chingkhei (all from Tata Football Academy), Abhishek Das (Kingfisher East Bengal), Ramandeep Singh (Air India).
Midfielders: Bikramjit Singh (Sr), Pranoy Halder, Ognam Milan Singh, Tirthankar Sarkar, Alwyn George, (all from Pailan Arrows), Simranjit Singh (Tata Football Academy), David Lalbiakzara, Ganeshan (both from Pune FC), Deepak Prakash (HAL), Lalrindika Ralte (Churchill Brothers), Shyju Mon (Chirag Kerala), Romeo Fernandes (Dempo).
Forwards: Rajinder Kumar, Holicharan Narzary (both from Pailan Arrows), Jeje Lalpekhlua (Pune FC), Manandeep Singh (Air India).
- India vs Lebanon (June 23)
- India vs Iraq (June 25)
- India vs United Arab Emirates (June 28)
- India vs Turkmenistan (June 30)
- India vs Oman (July 3).
Article written by Guest Author Vishaal Loganathan