The Indian national Team begin their World Cup Qualifying Campaign on 11th June at the Kanteevera Stadium in Bengaluru against Oman as a part of Group D, a group which also includes Asian powerhouse Iran, currently ranked 41st in the world along with lower ranked Guam and Turkmenistan. The Blue Tigers will have to play out of their skin in this tough group to have any chance of making it to the next round of qualification. TheHardTackle takes a look at India’s opponents in this group
Ranked 101st in the FIFA World Rankings. Oman is the second highest ranked team in the group. Though being ranked just outside top 100, Omana s performances havena t been of a very high level in the international stage, with the side only managing to reach the group stage of the AFC Asian Cup thrice, most recently this year in Australia. They have been poor their last six matches with only registering 2 wins and a draw. The national side is currently managed by Former French International and PSG captain, Paul Le Guen, who led Lyon to three consecutive Ligue 1 titles. Most recently Le Guen took Cameroon to the 2010 FIFA World Cup, but failing to qualify from the group stage.
Players to Watch Out
Ali Al Habsi : The former Wigan Athletic goalkeeper is the captain of the National Side with 108 caps to his name. If Oman were to qualify, they need to have an inspirational campaign from their captain.
Ahmed Al Hosni : The striker for Omanese club Saham SC is the one with the most goals for the national side art present, with 36 goals in 112 apperances. Even though hea s 30 the national team will depend a lot on his goalmouth performance.
The highest ranked team in Asia, Iran have played in four FIFA World Cup campaigns over the years, most recently in Brazil last year. The Iranians have been AFC Asian Cup champions thrice. They lost out in the Quarter Finals in this yeara s tournament. Irana s performance in their last six games have been very good, with losing only once to Sweden and drawing with all time rivals Iraq. They even defeated Chile in a recent International Friendly. The national side is managed by former Real Madrid and Portugal coach, Carlos Quieroz. As experienced as they get, the former Manchester United assistant manager, bounced back from a difficult stint with Portugal and flourished with Iran.
Players to Watch Out
Ashkan Dejagah : The former Fulham and VFL Wolfsburg midfielder was a key figure behind Iran qualifying for the last World Cup. Dejagah currently plays for Qatari side Al Arabi and he will be a key in Irana s bid to qualify this time around too, with his midfield presence and an eye for goal.
Reza Ghoochannejhad : The Charlton Athletic striker with a difficult surname to pronounce has become one of the prolific strikera s of the nation since his debut in 2012. Reza who is currently on loan Al Wakrah has scored 2 goals in 9 matches and finished last season at Al Kuwait on loan with 11 goals in 10 matches. The stats speak for themselves he will be Irana s main man upfront.
Turkmenistan ranked 173rd has never qualified for the World cup finals and have managed to qualify for the AFC Asian Cup once, getting knocked out in Round 1. The entire coaching staffs including the head coach was dismissed following a poor performance in the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup thus failing to qualify for the Asia Cup. The team is currently managed by Amangylyc Kocumow.
Players to watch out for
Berdi Samyradow : Hea s the highest goal scorer presently in the squad with 10 goals in 21 appearances for the country. Samyradow plays upfront for Turkmenistan based club FC Ashbagat.
Nazar Bayramow : The FC HTTU midfielder is the highest capped player presently in the squad with 26 caps. The 32 year old has scored 4 goals and his experience would be a major factor behind the teama s performance.
Ranked 174th the US Territory of Guam, is considered the 6th strongest team in East Asia, which includes the likes of Japan, China, South and North Korea. The side is currently managed by Southampton born, Gary White. It is under Whitea s guidance that the national side has seen the most success, rising to an all time high of 160 in the FIFA rankings. They have never qualified for the World Cup or Asia Cup, but were champions of the Micronesia Cup in 1998 and came third in the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup qualification.
Players to watch out
A.J. DeLaGarza : The 27 year old defender has 162 appearances and 2 goals for his club L.A Galaxy in the M.L.S and will be the main man in defence in Guama s upcoming matches in the qualifiers.
Jason Cunliffe : Jason Cunliffe is the countrya s highest capped player and leading goal scorer, along with being the Captain. The 31 year old forward for Rovers FC in Guam has 17 goals in 35 appearances for the national side and is the star striker upon whom the hopes of the nation are pinned upon.