March 2. 2013
Chinese Taipei is an unknown entity to Indian football lovers. Indian Football contingent will be eager to know one thing or other about their opponents ahead of their national teams opening fixture in AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers. Chinese Taipei might not be familiar but the ‘Republic of China’ the team which they represented before the formation of Chinese Taipei was a failry successful side. The two times Asian Games gold medalists have a good history in their erstwhile form and similar to India, they are a team living in their past. When these two teams faces each other we can expect a grueling match as these teams tries their luck in re-establishing their lost pride.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Indian Football has promised the dawn of a new era in recent times, but after their success in Nehru Cup things didn’t go according to the plan as defeats against Singapore and recently against Palestine have put things back on square one. The defeat against a second string Palestine side in February gives us a more clear cut picture of the national team ahead of the qualifiers. Even though possession based football has brought a breath of fresh air the players aren’t properly executing the tactics laid out by the manager. The lack of stamina and technique comes to their undoing at times. When the captain himself is missing in games, it’s very difficult for other players to get inspiration to get going on the pitch. Team India and its captain need to step up big time to earn a spot in AFC Challenge cup.
India’s erratic defence let them down on multiple occassions against Palestine. The decision to start Sandip Nandy was a baffling choice. Regular custodian Subrata Pal is expected to start between the sticks in the opening match. Denzil Franco is another player who let the team down against Palestine and he is expected to make way for an in-form Nirmal Chetri. The rest of the defence might give the same look as Gourmangi Singh and Raju Gaekwad are the most likely starters at the heart of the defence. AIFF player of the year Syed Rahim Nabi will be the first name on the coach’s team sheet on any day and deservingly he will occupy the left back spot.
When it comes to midfield, it’s time for Wim Koevermans to give the starting spot to Lalkamal Bhowmick who has been consistent in the I-Legue. Mehtab Hussain is the lynchpin of this national team and he is expected to pull the strings along with Lalkamal Bhowmick. This means Lenny Rodrigues will be the one making way as his form has been inconsistent in this season’s I-League. Francis Fernandez and Clifford Miranda had decent outings when they wore the national colours last time and both of them expected to keep their place even though Vineeth CK is knocking on all the doors along with Arata Izumi. Clifford Miranda might have lost his pace but the experienced winger poses a major threat from set-pieces and can provide dangerous crosses into the box.
The flag bearer of the national team is Sunil Chettri and he is expected to be the main striker ahead of Jeje Lalpekhula and Robin Singh. Sunil Chettri had a forgettable year after moving to Portugal and the outing against Palestine increased the miseries for the iconic striker, afterwards he decided to came back to India to join Churchill Brothers. He got some much needed playing time with the Goan team (in GFA league and AFC cup) and its time for him to prove again that he is the best in this sub-continent. The role of supporting striker was something destined for the upcoming sensation Alwyn George. He impressed the football faithful in his first start for the ‘Blue Tigers’ in February with clever link up play and trickery. On his day, he can be a handful to any opponents and the fans will be eagerly waiting for the youngster to weave his magic along with the seasoned pros.
Possible Starting XI (4-4-1-1): Subrata Pal; Nirmal Chettri, Gourmangi Singh, Raju Gaikwad, Syed Rahim Nabi; Francis Fernandes, Mehtab Hussain, Lalkamal Bhowmick, Clifford Miranda; Alwyn George; Sunil Chhetri.
Chinese Taipei will be looking to shrug off the demoralizing tag of a team living in the past in this qualifiers. They will be hoping for an upset against India which will put them in a healthier position. In all likelihood it is going to be a 3 way tussle between India, Myanmar and Chinese Taipei for the top spots in the group, so the opening match becomes more important as they need to be sharp from the start itself. They will be looking to put their disappointment of recent East Asian Cup preliminary competition to bed with a good display against the SAFF champions.
Chinese Taipei coach Chiang Mu Tsai is someone who gives more stress on dedication and hard-work If his players gives their everything for their match, Chiang will be more than happy no matter the result. There lies the catch for the Indians as players will be eager to impress the coach by giving their best shot and we can expect an energetic shift from Chinese Taipei players.
This team relies heavily on their inspirational goal scoring midfielder and captain Chen Po Liang. Chen has scored against the likes of Malaysia, but the most ironic memory of him will be his penalty miss afterwards which paved the way for an exit from world cup qualifiers based on away goals.
Chinese Taipei’s defence is in shambles and in recent EFA qualifying competition they conceded 17 goals in 3 matches. Chiang will be looking to plug the gaps in their leaky defence in this campaign. Chinese Taipei are expected to field a defensive minded team which will look to hit India on the counter attacks. Their strong organization and fast counter attacking game will come under scrutiny if the possession based Indians can get into their groove.
Even though their defence isn’t in good form recently, much is expected from their goalkeeper Lu. The “Taiwanese Buffon’ will have a tough job against the free flowing Indian attackers. When these sides met earlier he was in spectacular form to deny the Indian strike force and he did a commendable job by keeping the scoreline in a respectable position. This time around he comes face to face with an out of form strike force, but India’s midfield is in fine form and that is not a good sign for the ‘Taiwanese Buffon’.
Possible Starting XI (4-4-2): Lu Kun Chi; Chen Yu Ling, Victor Chou, Yang Chao Hsun, Xavier Chen; Chen Po Liang, Wu Chun Ching, Chan Che Yuan, Feng Pao Hsing; He Ming Chan, Chiu I Huan;
Players To Watch Out For
Alwyn George (India)
Pailan Arrows youngster Alwyn George has been impressive for the national team on his full debut against Palestine. His trickery, of-the-ball movement and positioning is expected to stretch the Chinese Taipei defence. It will be an auditioning test for the upcoming Indian sensation on the international stage and if he is able to live upto his billing, the crowd can witness some mesmerizing moments.
Victor Chou (Chinese Taipei)
Former Athletico Madrid youth team player Victor Chou is expected to come of his age in this tournament. Currently based in Shangai Shenhua, this tournament is supposed to be the breakthrough event for the Spanish born youngster. Tireless defender Chou, will have a tough role dealing the with the movements and trickery of Indian captain Sunil Chettri and upcoming sensation Alwyn George.
India 2-1 Chinese Taipei
If India can open the scoring in the early stages of the match, goals are going to galore in this encounter. Expecting the Chinese Taipei outfit to put up a brave fight against the favourites before going down in the slighest of margins. Indian Football team’s possession based play is expected to dictated the flow against the relatively inexperienced campaigners. It will be a tough test for the subcontinental team, the one in which they are expected to pass the test.