Royal Oman Police Stadium, Muscat
28th June, 2012
Despite a strong second half peformance, India went down 2-1 against Iraq.They will now face off against a strong UAE side in their third match as they look to keep qualification hopes alive.
Team News And Tactical Brief
UAE (FIFA Ranking 119)
The U22 team of 1990 World Cup qualifiers has made a strong start to the campaign and currently tops the table with a 100% record after two games. UAE opened their campaign against hosts Oman. As expected, it was tough encounter, with teams matching each blow by blow. The score remained goal less at half-time. UAE came with all guns blazing in second half and took the lead at the hour mark, thanks to a strike from Abdulla Mubarak. Fourteen minutes later the result was put beyond doubt by substitute Jamal Maroof.
After getting off to a winning start, UAE boys started brightly against Turkmenistan. The five man midfield dominated their opponents and UAE quickly took control of the match. They got their breakthrough in the 19th minute when Omer Amer got past his markers to unleash a right footed shot which hit the post and went in. UAE dominated the midfield for rest of match but were unable to extend their lead. The match was an ill-tempered one as the referee showed a flurry of yellow cards with Turkmenistan’s Komekov Hemayat getting sent off deep into injury time. It was not a full convincing performance but UAE garnered three more points and kept another clean sheet.
UAE usually play a 4-3-2-1 formation with captain Salem Al Rejaibi playing as lone striker. Playing behind him are Younis Mubarak and Omer Amer. However, UAE’s most striking area till now has been their defence. The four-man defence of Hamad Alhammadi, Mohammad Salem, Salemin and Mohamad Ismail has been a stubborn back-line till now and it yet to be breached. They will need to be on their toes against an Indian team which has found the net six times in two matches.
Salem Al Rejaibi’s form will be point of concern for UAE management. The strong center-forward has not managed to score a goal till now and he will need to start firing soon if UAE are to maintain their pole position. The 21 year old was also part of UAE senior team as they knocked India out of 2014 World Cup qualifiers last year.
Possible Starting XI (4-3-2-1): Fahad Mohammd; Hamad Alhammadi, Salem, Salemin, Ismail; Khalifa Mohammad, Majed Hassan, Abdulla Jamhi; Omar, Younis Mubarak; Salem Al Rejaibi
India (FIFA Ranking 164)
After swatting away Lebanon in their opening match, Arthur Pappas’ team dished out another encouraging performance against a strong Iraqi team. India might have lost 2-1 but the fight and style of play shown by the young Blue Tigers drew praise from opponent coach as well as UAE coach Baler Sadih, who came to attend the match.
One of the hallmarks of India’s performance till now has been the style of play. Arthur Pappas has molded the youngsters quickly to play a possession based approach which focuses on ground passing. This is a far cry from the overt long ball tactics of Houghton-Bulpin era. Credit must be given to Pappas and well as the team for this quick turnaround. According to Iraqi coach Hakeem Shakir, this was the “best Indian team” across all age groups that he has seen till now. There is also flexibility in formation as India can switch between 4-3-3 and 4-3-1-2, a sharp change from the tried and tested 4-4-2 for previous eras.
Arrows’ striker Alwyn George has been touted to be one of the hottest prospects in Indian football right now and the youngster has done justice to this tag by notching up three goals in two matches. His combination with Lalrindika Ralte is one of the primary reasons behind India’s fluid style. The fleet footed Ralte has caused problems down the wings for both Lebanon and Iraq and he also set up Manandeep Signh’s opener against Lebabon. Sadly, Alwyn will be missing this match after back to back bookings and India will find it difficult to replace him. One major concern for India will be the fitness of Jeje Lalpekhlua but his replacement Holicharan Narzary also had an encouraging outing in the last match.
Defence, especially the central defensive pairing of Souvik Ghosh and Prathamesh Maulinkar is one of the major problems facing India in this match. Maulinkar was not fully fit in the first match and was expected to provide some solidity to the defence which conceded two soft goals. However, even his return could not plug holes in the defence as Iraq took an early 2-0 lead in the match. It was India’s attacking mentality that prevented Iraq from scoring more goals, as they were pegged back. Against UAE, a team that plays a similar formation and has shown signs of getting results when it matters, Indian defenders needs to be more consistent.
Probable Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Gurpreet Singh; Abhishek Das, Souvik Ghosh, Prathamesh Maulinkar, Narayan Das; Pronoy Halder , Milan Singh; Holicharan, Shaiju, Lalrindika Ralte; Manandeep Singh
India India India
TheHardTackle’ s Players to Watch Out For
Salem Al Rejaibi (UAE)
The UAE #9 might have had couple of off-days till now but he is their best bet to take advantage of India’s defensive frailty. Al Rejaibi’s aerial dominance is sure to cause problems to India.
Manandeep Singh (India)
Manandeep opened India’s account in AFC U22 qualifiers and will be one of the most crucial players in Alwyn’s absence. His physical style of play will be asset against strong UAE defenders.
Key Match Facts
All three goals UAE has scored till now are by midfielders.
UAE is yet to concede a goal.
With six goals, India is the joint top scorer in their group.
TheHardTackle’ s Prediction
UAE 1-1 India
UAE is a strong team but Indians are going through a strong patch of form right now and should be able to eke out a draw.