30th June, 2012
SULTAN QABOOS SPORTS COMPLEX, MUSCAT, 6:30 P.M. IST
This could really be the dawn of a new era for football in India. When has an Indian team- in Arthur Papas’ words- been a team of fighters? When was the last time an Indian team coach say to his players that he was proud of them and was proud to be their coach? Or still better when has an Indian team made everyone stand up and take notice? Well, this current India U-22 team has done exactly that and has got the Asian football fraternity raising their eyebrows. That India has been the team on everyone’s lips was dramatized when the Iraqi coach Hakeem Shakir crossed over the centre-line after the game against India, walked towards Papas and said “I’ve seen many an Indian team in the past across all age-groups. But I admit this is the best Indian team I’ve ever played against. I mean it”
The superb performances that India have dished out in this championship has really taken Asia by storm. Put it to coach Arthur Papas’ refreshing new ideas or the enthusiasm of the young Indian lads to fight till the end-this team has been one of the best in recent memory. And after all the hard work put against Lebanon, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates, team India’s easiest test comes against Turkmenistan- a team that along with Lebanon has failed to register a single point in the tournament so far.
Team News And Tactical Brief
India (FIFA Rank 164)
India will welcome back their top scorer George Alwyn who missed the game against UAE due to a double booking. The Kerala based striker has been one of the best Indian players so far scoring two goals against Lebanon in the opening fixture. Shaiju Mon would be rested and George could partner the robust Manandeep Singh in case captain Jeje is unable to start the match again. Right half Pranoy Halder however will be missing from the team due to a double booking and his place will in all probability be taken by Dempo midfielder Romeo Fernandes, scorer in the previous game against UAE.
India India India
The rest of the team will remain unchanged as captain Gurpreet Singh will continue to man the posts. The Indian defense that has performed so well in the previous game will be devoid of any changes. A major concern for India would be the number of yellow cards that the team has been getting. Three of the four defenders- Abhishek Das, Narayan Das and Prathamesh Maulingkar are on a yellow card and could miss the subsequent match if they get booked.
The midfield except for the one change in Romeo Fernandes will continue to have Tirthankar Sarkar and Milan Singh in the centre of the park while East Bengal bound Lalrindika Ralte will play on the left. The flanks have been the major source of ammunition for the Indian strikers and Ralte and Romeo will continue to be the key playmakers in this game.
India’s flexibility of changing from a 4-4-2 to a 4-3-2-1 system and vice versa has received rave reviews from the other teams and this flexibility could once again pose problems for Turkmenistan. Wins for India in their final two games could see them qualify from the group, especially since UAE have a tough final game against toppers Iraq.
Probable Starting XI (4-3-2-1): Gurpreet Singh (GK), Prathamesh Maulingkar, Abhishek Das, Narayan Das, Souvik Ghosh, Lalrindika Ralte, Milan Singh, Tirthankar Sarkar, Romeo Fernandes, Manandeep Singh, Alwyn George.
Turkmenistan (FIFA Rank 138)
Turkmenistan are sitting second last in the group above Lebanon only on goal difference and have lost all theirgames so far. They got hammered in their first game against Iraq 0-4, then got blanked against UAE 0-2 and then suffered a 1-3 reverse against Oman in their previous encounter.
They have plenty of problems having scored just one goal and conceded eight. Worse still, they have the worst disciplinary record in the group with two players being sent off in their three games. They will however be boosted by the return of two of their defensive mainstays in the form of Mekan and Komekov Hemayat, both of whom were suspended in the game against Oman.
Coach Hojageldiyev Yazguly will be hoping to open his account in the tournament with at least a draw against India and spoil their opponents chances of progressing from the group. Their defense however will have to guard against the talented Indian strikers and the extremely quick wingers in the form of Lalrindika Ralte and Romeo Fernandes. Though Turkmenistan are much higher ranked than India their performance in this tournament has been disappointing to say the least. Their coach will be hoping for a better showing against India which will give them confidence in their final game against fellow strugglers Lebanon.
Probable Starting XI (4-4-2): Geldiyev Batir (GK), Komekov Hemayat, Sohyunov Shorat, Mekan, Anasahatov, Durdiyev Didar, Saidmamedov Begench, Tursonov Furkat, Magtymov Yhlas, Myradov Orazberdi, Muhammed
The Hard Tackle’s Players to Watch Out For:
Romeo Fernandes (India)
The 20 year old Dempo midfielder made his appearance on the 84th minute against Iraq and also came off the bench to score the equalizer against UAE in the previous encounter. He is blessed with tremendous pace and can even play as a striker- having played in that position for the Dempo junior teams.
Magtymov Yhlas (Turkmenistan)
The defender has the distinction of scoring Turkmenistan’s lone goal in this competition and will once again be the key player for the 138th ranked nation.
Key Match Facts
India and Turkmenistan have met only once before in the AFC Challenge Cup Qualifiers in 2011. The game finished in a 1-1 draw. Jeje Lalpekhlua was the Indian scorer.
Turkmenistan finished second to India in that group and qualified for the AFC Challenge cup 2012. However unlike India who had a disastrous tournament, Turkmenistan went on to reach the finals where they lost against DPR Korea
The Hard Tackle’s Prediction
India 2-0 Turkmenistan
India’s current run of form coupled with their opponents woeful form should see them record a comfortable victory.