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V

Iran

Sree Kanteerawa Stadium, Bangalore
08 September 2015

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Indian National Football team takes on mighty Iran in their third match of the second round of qualification for the 2018 FIFA World Cup and the match can be aptly termed as a David vs Goliath battle.

Iran come into the match having defeated Guam 6-0 while India were held to a goal-less draw by Nepal in a practice match. Iran are the top ranked team in Asia with the current FIFA ranking of 40 and gave a good account of themselves in the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Having already suffered defeats against Guam and Oman, India find themselves at the bottom of Group D while Iran are perched at the third spot behind Oman and Guam.

Team News and Tactical Brief

India

The Blue Tigers have hardly had a perfect buildup coming into this crucial match against Iran as they were held to a goal-less draw by Nepal in an international friendly in Pune. India were expected to leave behind the disappointment of losses against Oman and Guam by winning against Nepal but were let down by the finishing from their strikers. It remains to be seen what strategy Stephen Constantine adopts against Iran who are miles ahead of India in every department.

Arnab Mondal will be the key player for India

Arnab Mondal will be the key player for India

Subrata Pal who was the skipper against Nepal will start under the bar for the hosts yet again. The Spider-man as he is fondly called will have to be at this best as Iran are expected to attack the Indian goal on numerous occasions. Arnab Mondal was the surprise omission from the Indian team that played against Nepal and this omission did raise a lot of eyebrows with fans questioning Constantine’s decision. The best defender in the nation however should be back against Iran where he will be up against the likes of Mehdi Taremi and Sardar Azmoun. Sandesh Jhingan who missed the matches against Oman and Guam owing to an injury will partner Mondal in the heart of the Indian defence. Pritam Kotal started the match at the right back spot against Nepal but it is likely that Constantine will opt for the more experienced Rino Anto against Iran. Lalchhuan Mawia has been dropped from the squad after a couple of listless performances against Oman and Guam and Dhanachandra Singh who played as a stop-gap centre back in the matches against Oman and Guam is expected to replace him.

Constantine may play with a 5 man midfield in a bid to crowd the middle of the park and restrict space for the Iranian midfield. Pronoy Halder who was impressive on his debut against Nepal and Dhanpal Ganesh look likely to be entrusted with the task of protecting the back-four. Both the young central midfielders are highly rated and will be eager to perform against Iran in the big match. While the outcome of the match is beyond doubt, the duo will have to keep the skillful Ashkan Dejagah under check if India are to end the match with a respectable scoreline. With the Indian attackers likely to be few in number, the hardworking CK Vineeth may start on the left flank and will be expected to track back as he did against Oman. With Jackichand’ s performances not up to the mark in the first two matches, Francis Fernandes should start on the right flank. Bengaluru FC midfielder Eugenson Lyngdoh will be tasked with the responsibility of creating attacks for the Indian side once again . The hardworking midfielder has not yet shown the form that he displayed in the I-League last season and must do so in the big match against Iran.

Sunil Chhetri is expected to be the lone man starting upfront for India. The all time top Indian goal-scorer has scored against all teams India has played so far in the World Cup qualification campaign and will be looking to add to his current tally of four goals, in this match.

Possible Starting XI (4-5-1): Subrata Pal; Dhanachandra Singh, Sandesh Jhingan, Arnab Mondal, Rino Anto; CK Vineeth, Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Pronoy Halder, Dhanpal Ganesh, Francis Fernandes; Sunil Chhetri

Probable Starting XI

Probable Starting XI

Iran

Ranked 40th in the world, Iran are the top ranked team in Asia and would be vying for nothing less than three points in this match. Under the tutelage of Portuguese coach Carlos Queiroz, Iran had a slow start to their qualification campaign as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Turkmenistan but the 6-0 win over Guam has re-instilled confidence in the team.

27 year old Alireza Haghighi who plays for Rubin Kazan in Russia is the first choice for goalkeeper for Team Melli. 33 year old Jalal Hosseini is the vice-captain of the team and will lead the defence. Hosseini has played 96 matches for Iran and is an integral part of the squad. Pejman Montazeri who plays for Al Ahli in Qatar is expected to partner Hosseini in the heart of the Iranian defence. 27 year old Vouria Ghafouri is expected to tread the right flank while Hossein Kanaani will start on the opposite one.

Ashkan Dejagah will look to score against an inexperienced Indian defense

Ashkan Dejagah will look to score against an inexperienced Indian defence

It is however the centre of the park where Iran pack the punch. 32 year old Andranik Teymourian who has played for Bolton and Fulham in his career will lead the Iranian midfield. Teymourian is the captain of the team and was voted as the Iranian player of the year in 2014. He is infact the first Christian to lead the Iranian team. Omid Ebrahimi is expected to partner Teymourian in the heart of the midfield. Ashkan Dejagah, unarguably the most famous name in the Iran team will take his place on the right flank. Having won the 2009 UEFA European Under-21 Football Championship with Germany, Dejagah started playing for Iran in 2011 after Carlos Queiroz invited him. Having played for Hertha BSC and Wolfsburg in Germany and for Fulham in England, Dejagah is likely to relish this opportunity of playing against an inexperienced Indian side. Having signed a contract with second division German club FSV Frankfurt at the start of the season, 25 year old Ehsan Hajsafi will occupy his place on the left side of the midfield. Hajsafi has played for Iran at the U-17, U-20 and U-23 levels, and is a vital member of the senior team having amassed 72 caps so far.

Nicknamed the Iranian Messi, 20 year old Sardar Azmoun will lead the attack for Iran. Azmoun, who plays for Rostov in the Russian Premier League, has already scored three goals in two World Cup qualifiers. Blessed with blistering pace, Azmoun made a name for himself with the U-20 Iran team where he scored 19 goals in 18 matches and he has recently attracted interest from Arsenal and Liverpool. Azmoun will be looking to add to his tally against an inexperienced Indian defence. Another youngster 23 year old Mehdi Taremi would be starting alongside Azmoun in a two man strike force for Iran. Mehdi comes into the match after having scored a brace against Guam in the last fixture.

Possible Starting XI (4-4-2): Alireza Haghighi; Hossein Kanaani, Pejman Montazeri, Jalal Hosseini, Vouria Ghafouri; Ehsan Hajsafi, Andranik Teymourian, Omid Ebrahimi, Ashkan Dejagah; Sardar Azmoun, Mehdi Taremi

Key Players

Arnab Mondal (India)

With defence likely to be the focus of the Blue Tigers against Iran, it is no surprise that Arnab Mondal will be India’ s key man. The East Bengal defender has made a name for himself in the I-League and the team will look to him for an inspired performance against a much superior Iranian team. If India have to keep the scoreline respectable, Mondal will have to be at his best.

Ashkan Dejagah (Iran)

Ashkan Dejagah was a regular member of the Wolfsburg team that won the Bundesliga in 2009-10 and since his debut for Iran has gone on to become an integral part of the national team. Dejagah scored twice on his Iran debut back in 2011 and comes into the match having scored a goal against Guam in the last game. His pace and trickery could prove to be more than a handful against India.

Prediction

India 1-5 Iran

While the result of the match is beyond doubt, it remains to be seen how many can Iran score past an inexperienced Indian defence. India will hope to score through skipper Sunil Chhetri and bring a smile on the face of their fans. TheHardTackle predicts a thumping 5-1 win for the visitors.