Yangon Training Centre, Yangon
Indian National Football Team takes on the 183 ranked Guam in the second match of the AFC Challenge Cup Qualifiers in what is the first encounter between the two sides. Team India comes into the match after edging past Chinese Taipei 2-1 with the winner coming in the 91st minute while Guam lost to hosts Myanmar 5-0 . This match is the second one for both the teams in the tournament and both will be eyeing a win to boost their chances of qualification.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Coach Wim Koevermans made a few surprises to the starting eleven in the match against Chinese Taipei as Gurjinder Kumar and Jewel Raja were preferred over the ever-impressive Syed Rahim Nabi and Alwyn George. The move was surprising as Jewel was hardly handed a start despite being in the squad since Nehru Cup but Jewel indeed justified his inclusion by scoring India’s opener while Nabi was introduced as a substitute on the right flank. One of things on Koevermans’ mind must be team’s failure to score from the corners and the set-pieces in the first match.
Subrata Pal who made some fine saves against Chinese Taipei in the opening match is likely to continue in goal with Nirmal Chettri as right-back and Gouramangi Singh and Raju Gaikwad as the two center-backs. The left-back spot could see Syed Rahim Nabi return to the side as the Guam are a relatively weaker opponent and coach Koevermans may prefer to go on the offensive right from the start. The AIFF player of the year made an immediate impact as a substitute when he sent in a measured cross that Robin Singh scored from. The Indian defense has a tendency to switch off and allow opponents to score something which them must look to avoid. The Indian defense will have to keep an eye on midfielder Ryan Guy and forward Zachary DeVille both of whom are based in USA.
The midfield in likely to see Francis Fernandes and Clifford Miranda whip in crosses from the right and left flank respectively. The duo has been instrumental in creating several chances for the forwards and though Francis is not fully fit , he is expected to start and play for the first hour or so. Coach Koevermans has stuck to the duo of Lenny Rodrigues and Mehtab Hossain in the center of the park and the match against Guam is likely to see a change as Jewel Raja, who was impressive in the opening game, could start in place of Lenny in order to give him rest. Mehtab with his vision and passing troubled the Taipei defense on numerous occasions and is likely to prove more than a handful for the inexperienced Guam midfield.
Alwyn George is likely to return to the starting lineup after his impressive performance against Palestine and he likely to play as an attacking midfielder in a 4-4-1-1 formation behind the lone striker who is going to be skipper Sunil Chhetri. Despite failing to score, Chhetri earned an assist for the first goal and was involved in most of the Indian moves. The skipper is coming into his elements and the playing time he has got with Churchill Brothers has helped recover his old form.
Possible Starting XI (4-4-1-1): Subrata Pal; Nirmal Chettri, Gourmangi Singh, Raju Gaikwad, Syed Rahim Nabi; Francis Fernandes, Mehtab Hussain, Jewel Raja, Clifford Miranda; Alwyn George ; Sunil Chhetri.
Popularly known as Matao, the Guam Football Team comes into the tournament having played 10 matches in the last one year in the build up to this event. Thea team has improved considerably under English Coach Gary White but the after going down 5-0 to hosts Myanmar, their task is cut against India and nothing less than a win will help their cause.
Guam is likely to go with a 4-4-2 formation with goalkeeper Doug Herrick, one of many American based players in the team, under the posts. Shawn Nicklaw who plies his trade in Denmark plays as a right back and the 23 year old is one of the key players in the lineup His overlapping runs will be key to Guam’s fortunes. Jonahan Romero, Christian Schweizer and Scott Guerrero are the other defenders who are likely to start since Micah Paulino was taken off in the 14th minute against Myanmar. Matao’ s defense will have to be on their toes to keep the Indian strikers in check.
Ryan Guy is a the most influential player in the Guam lineup and the midfielder was once close to earning a call-up to the US National team. Ryan will look to trouble the shaky Indian defense with his pace and trickery. Accompanying him in the midfield are likely to be captain Jason Cunliffe who is the senior-most member of the squad at the age of 29 and has also scored 9 times, highest in the current Guam lineup. Travis Nicklaw, younger brother of Shawn Nicklaw and Ian Mariano are the other midfielders who are expected to start.
John Matkin, who plays for United Sikkim in I-League is expected to lead the attack along with Zachary De Ville. Matkin’s experience of playing in India will prove vital for Guam in this match as he has played against most of the Indian defenders and has developed a good reputation for himself as a striker.
Possible Starting XI (4-4-2): Doug Herrick; Shawn Nicklaw, Jonahan Romero, Christian Schweizer, Scott Guerrero; Ryan Guy, Jason Cunliffe, Travis Nicklaw, Ian Mariano; John Matkin, Zachary DeVille.
- Indian Skipper Sunil Chhetri has scored more goals than the entire Guam team playing in this tournament put together.
- Guam Football team has a lot of players based in America – goalkeepers Doug Herrick, Dallas Jaye, defender Micah Paulino and forward Zachary DeVille
- Prolific scorer and skipper Sunil Chhetri has now failed to score in his last three encounters with the national team.
Players To Watch Out For
It is true that the Indian National Football Team lost the services of Mehtab Hossain when he was at his peak thanks to ignorance of Bob Houghton but the East-Bengal midfielder was arguably India’s best player against Chinese Taipei creating a number of chances and testing the goalkeeper with long-rangers and free-kick. Nicknamed the ‘Double Cylinder’ the gusty midfielder will once again be to India’ s fortunes and is the player to watch out for
The fact that Ryan Guy was on verge of breaking in to USA’s national team speaks volumes about his talent. Guam coach Gary White expressed great pleasure when Ryan decided to turn up for Guam calling it a great step for Guam football. Ryan’s pace can cause trouble in the India defense which is know to be susceptible against pace.
India 4-1 Guam
After a moral boosting opening win , the Indian team will go all out against the most inexperienced team in the group considering that the group difference may prove crucial in the end. Though it is tough to imagine Indians keeping a clean sheet given their shaky defense, the improvement in Sunil Chhetri’s form will give them hopes. TheHardTackle predicts a 4-1 win for the Indian team.