INDIA

V

SYRIA

September 25th, 2012; Kick-Off- 5PM IST

Rah Ahan Stadium, Tehran

***

India U16 boys will be hoping to put aside the heartbreak from first match as they prepare to take on Syria U-16 team in their second match of the ongoing AFC U-16 Championship in Tehran, Iran. Although Colm Toal’s side finds themselves lying at the bottom of the group after their first of the round robin stage, they can take a lot of heart from their spirited performance against their much higher ranked opponents. Indian colts showed tremendous amount of improvement, especially if one considers the 9-0 drubbing which they had received from the same opponents in the qualifiers a year ago.

As expected, Uttam Rai proved to be the go-to man for the Indians as his second half brace helped India to restore parity twice in the match. The Indians were cruelly denied a point after Uzbekistan’s second half substitute Abdiganiyev Ilhomjon scored the winner ten minutes from time, bringing a thrilling end to the match.

The Indian team was left distraught after the result but they will have very less to recover as they take on another higher ranked opponent in Syria on Tuesday. Toal’s boys are expected to go all out as a win will put them in a really strong position before their last match where as a loss will most likely put their hope of progressing into the knockout stage in jeopardy.

Team News And Tactical Brief

INDIA

With teams like 2010 runners up – Uzbekistan, Syria and China in their group, India had their task cut out for them from the start of the tournament. Indian boys have been tipped by the experts to finish last in the group but their performance against the mighty Uzbeks has forced many of these “football pundits” to rethink. Indians have shown a tremendous improvement in the defensive department with their back four and goalkeeper Supratim Bhattacharjee showing a lot of character against a team which had scored nine past them in the qualifiers.

Colm Joseph Toal explains a point to the boys during a practice session in Tehran

Toal is expected to field in a 4-4-2 formation against the Syrians in a do or die match. A stupendous display in the defense means that Dhot and Golui will be present at the center of the defense while Mendes and Gagria will be placed on either side of the flanks. Skipper Lalramzuava will be marshaling his troops in middle of the park along with Germanpreet Singh, who also had an exceptional first game against Uzbeks. The rise of Uttam Rai has been exceptional over the past two years. He managed to keep the opposing defenders on their toes throughout the ninety minutes. He has carried forward his form from the qualifiers into the main tournament and has already found his name on the score sheet twice. His form on the day will be crucial for Indian’s chances and expect the Syrians to keep an extra eye over him from the moment the game begins on Tuesday evening.

“We are looking forward to another tough game. They are strong and aggressive who can play football at the same time. They need to be lauded for their fighting spirit – the manner in which they came back to equalise in injury time,” – Toal

India Expected line up: Supratim Bhattacharjee (GK), Myron Mendes, Sajid Dhot, Sarthak Golui, Gagrai, Lalramzuava (C), Deory, Germanpreet Singh, Vanmalswama , Daniel Lalhlimpuia, Uttam Rai.

SYRIA

The 2010 quarter finalist will be brimming with confidence after they managed to snatch away a point from two times Champions – China in the dying minutes of  their opening clash on Sunday night. Syrian coach Muhannad Alfakeer informed that his boys have played friendlies against strong team such as Oman and Jordan, prior to coming for the AFC Championship. This could make up for their inability to conduct a thorough preparatory camp due to the politically volatile situation in Syria. Despite China taking the lead immediately after the halftime, the Syrians looked the better of the two sides.

Midfielder Subie Alhusni was menacing in the middle of the park as Chinese defenders were looking hapless in front of the midfielder but the forwards could not make the most of his crosses. The Syrians did keep on pressing even in the injury time as the rattled Chinese team finally conceded the equalizer barely two minutes from the final whistle, leaving both the teams tied at second position in group D.

Prediction

India 1-0 Syria 

Both these teams met in the 2008 edition during the round robin stage in which Syria blasted three past a listless Indian defense to emerge victorious. Four years have passed since then and with the current crop of Indian colts primarily playing pressing football rather than playing aerial balls, Indians stand a good chance to trouble the West Asians. While Syria will probably man mark Indian goal machine Uttam Rai, the Indians will need to keep a check on the midfield of Syria if they want to get a result out of this match. A stiff battle between the midfields of both these sides is expected on the card but TheHardTackle predicts the match to go in the favour of the Indian colts by a solitary goal.