Balewadi Sports Complex, Pune
31 August 2015
Almost a week ahead of facing Asian giants Iran in their third game of the second round of qualification for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the Indian National Football team takes on Nepal in a friendly match. India defeated Nepal in the first round of the qualifiers to reach this stage and will be looking to boost their morale going into the important match against Iran. On the other hand, this will be the first match for Nepal after the devastating earthquake shook the nation in April this year and the team will be looking to win the match and bring back a smile on the faces of its citizen.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Nothing has gone right for Stephen Constantine and the Blue Tigers ever since it recorded a win over Nepal in the preliminary round of the World Cup qualifiers. Twin defeats to Oman and Guam with an identical margin of 2-1 have relegated the team to the last spot in Group D and the team is not likely to have an easy outing against top ranked Asian team Iran in their match on 8th September. While the performance against Oman was encouraging, the loss to Guam brought to forth the weaknesses in the team. Stephen Constantine cited plethora of reasons for the dismal performance against Oman ranging from absence of PIOs in the team to the existence of dual league to the presence of foreign players in the I League but none of this has gone down well with the fans who expected a better result against Oman.
Subrata Paul was the custodian in the matches against Guam and though he was not guilty of making any specific errors, it is possible that Gurpreet Singh Sandhu who plays for Stabaek FC in Norway may be given a chance to prove his worth in this match. The young and inexperienced Indian defense showed nerves in both the matches against Oman and Guam and were caught napping at times. Arnab Mondal of East Bengal is the arguably one of the best central defenders in the country and will lead the defense once again. Dhanachandra Singh was the stop-gap center back in the matches against Oman and Guam after an injury forced Sandesh Jhingan out of the team. Jhingan however is back in the squad and the talented youngster should partner Mondal in the heart of the defense. Jhingan’ s return will no doubt be a boost to the Indian defense which has looked shaky till now. Rino Anto who assisted in India’s only goal against Guam will retain his place on the right side of the defense while his Bengaluru FC teammate Lalchhuanmawia looks set to start on the opposite side. Pritam Kotal, who had a fantastic season with Mohun Bagan could get a look in the match as well.
The midfield which looked a well oiled machine in the match against Oman came under criticism for its uninspiring performance against Oman. This prompted Stephen Constantine to include Pronoy Halder, Brandon Fernandes, Rowlin Borges and Romeo Fernandes in the team for the match against Nepal. The midfield will be still be led Eugenson Lyngdoh who was roped in by FC Pune City for over a crore in the Indian Super League. Lyngdoh had a stellar season for Bengaluru FC and his industrious work-rate was on display in both the match against Oman and Guam. Sehnaj Singh who started alongside in Lyngdoh may be dropped in favor of Pronoy Halder or the more attack minded Brandon Fernandes. Brandon Fernandes is only one of the highly rated talents in Indian Football and he is capable of playing in the hole behind the two strikers. Jackichand Singh had forgetful outings against Oman & Guam and appeared lost on the field. The Royal Wahingdoh winger may lose his place to Romeo Fernandes or the more experienced Francis Fernandes. CK Vineeth looks set to retain his place in the starting lineup. Midfield in one area where Constantine will look to try out various options before the crucial match against Iran and as a result several players could feature in this match.
Having scored four goals from four matches in the World Cup qualifiers, skipper Sunil Chhetri will once again lead the attack for the Blue Tigers. The all time leading goal-scorer scored a gem of a goal against Oman and will look to add to his goal scoring tally in this match against Nepal. Robin Singh has come under a lot of criticism for his lackluster performances and it is high time that the lad from Delhi puts in an improved shift to prove that he deserves a spot in the national team.
Possible Starting XI (4-4-2): . Gurpreet Singh Sandhu; Lalchhuan Mawia, Sandesh Jhingan, Arnab Mondal, Rino Anto; CK Vineeth, Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Brandon Fernandes, Francis Fernandes; Robin Singh, Sunil Chhetri
Jack Stefanowski left the team after his contract expired in May and he has been replaced by Belgian Patrick Aussems. The match against India will be Aussems’ first match in-charge of the Nepal team and he will like to start his stint with a win. Nepal are using this match to prepare for the SAFF Championships to be held later in the team and have included four new players in the team – Ajit Bhandari, Bharat Shah, Nawayug Shrestha and Bishwas Shrestha. The team is as follows
Goalkeepers: Bikesh Kuthu, Kiran Chemjong, Ritesh Thapa
Defenders: Biraj Maharjan, Rohit Chand, Sagar Thapa, Sandip Rai, Ranjit Dhimal, Ananta Tamang, Ajit Bhandari, Rabin Shrestha
Midfielders: Bikram Lama, Bishal Rai, Bhola Silwal, Jagjeet Shrestha, Sushil KC, Raju Tamang, Biswas Shrestha
Forwards: Jumanu Rai, Bharat Khawas, Nawayug Shrestha, Bimal Gharti Magar, Bharat Shah and Anjan Bista, Anil Gurung
Kiran Chemjong is the most experienced of the three custodians in the team and the 25 year old looks set to start under the bar for the visitors. The defense will be led by skipper Sagar Thapa who has expressed confidence coming into this match. 31-year-old Thapa is the most capped player in the team and his battle with Sunil Chhetri could prove to be decisive in the outcome of the match. Sandip Rai, who once played for Mohammedan Sporting in India is expected partner Thapa in the heart of the defense. Rabin Shrestha and Biraj Mahajan look set to start on the left and right side of the defense for the Gorkhalis. Nepal has more experienced back four compared to India and they will have to defend well against Chhetri and co. to ensure that they get a positive result.
Rohit Chand who played for HAL in the I League will be Nepal’ s go-to man in the midfield. Chand carried with him the experience of having played for Indonesian side Persija Jakarta and is undoubtedly one of the most decorated players in the Nepal team at the moment. Bikram Lama who caused India problems with his passing in the reverse leg of the World Cup qualifiers is expected to accompany Chand in the middle third of the park. Jagajeet Shrestha who has had trials with VfB Stuttgart and Jagiellonia Bia ystok in Europe is expected to start on the left side of the midfield while Bhola Silwal will start on the opposite side.
The attack will be led by 17-year-old Bimal Magar who is undoubtedly one of the best young talents in the sub-continent at the moment. The youngest goal scorer in Nepal’s history, Bimal has had trial stints with several clubs in Europe which include Anderlecht and Club Brugge KV. Bimal is a pacey player and he would look to trouble the inexperienced Indian defense with his trickery and skills. Bimal in fact, comes into the match having won the U19 SAFF Championships where they defeated the India U19 team. Another youngster Bharat Khawas is expected to lineup alongside Magar in the the attack for the Himalayan nation while the 32 year old Jumanu Rai could also be used at some point in the game.
Possible Starting XI (4-4-2): Kiran Chemjong; Rabin Shrestha, Sagar Thapa, Sandip Rai, Biraj Mahajan; Jagajeet Shrestha, Rohit Chand, Bikram Lama, Bhola Silwal; Bimal Magar, Bharat Khawas
India 2-1 Nepal
The Blue Tigers will be keen to leave behind the disappointment of a bad showing against Guam and would be looking to win the match before going into the FIFA World Cup qualifier against Iran on 8th September. Nepal on the other hand are passing through a transition and have a new coach at the helm of affairs and this does make India the favorites going into the match. TheHardTackle predicts a narrow win for The Blue Tigers.