Sree Kanteerawa Stadium, Bangalore
Indian national football team kicks off the second round of qualification for the 2018 FIFA World Cup as it takes on Oman in the first match. India defeated Nepal by an aggregate score of 2-0 in the first round and are now clubbed with Iran, Oman, Turkmenistan and Guam in the second round of 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers which will also serve as the qualification tournament for the 2019 AFC Cup. The last time the two sides met India were handed a 5-1 drubbing by Oman.
While host India come into the match without having played any friendly match, their rivals Oman played two matches the first one against Bahrain which they drew 0-0 and the second one against Syria which they lost 1-2. Being the first match of the group, both the teams will be looking to give their best and start their campaign on a winning note. With the football interest in Bangalore on a high, thanks to Bengaluru FC’ s success, the AIFF is hoping that fans will throng the stadium in large numbers and in this regard have tied up kyazoonga for online sale of the tickets.
Team News And Tactical Brief
Hosts India come into the match on back of a VISA issue that forced the team to train in Delhi for a couple of days. The camp in Bangalore which was scheduled to begin on the 4th of this month started only on 6th as the team had to be in Delhi to sort out their VISA issues in order to travel to Guam. Team India have made a jump in rankings thanks to their win over Nepal but the match against Oman is likely to a tough test for Stephen Constantine and his boys. With the team travelling to play against Guam in their second match, a good performance in the first match could really prove to be the key.
Skipper Subrata Paul is likely to start under the bar despite not having the best of seasons for Salgaocar. Subrata’ s shot stopping ability bailed out out Salgaocar on few occasions but he was also guilty of making some school child errors which did cost his club costly. Bengaluru FC duo of Rino Anto and Lalchhuan Mawia are expected to line up on the right and left side of the defense respectively. The duo featured consistently for Bengaluru and dished out their duties diligently – both offensively and defensively, thus impressing national coach Constantine. It must be remembered that both Anto and Mawia didn’t feature in the squad for the Nepal game. Despite not having the best of seasons for East Bengal, Arnab Mondal remains one of the most assured defenders in the country and is expected to led the defense. Sandesh Jhingan, who played a key role in Sporting’ s resurgence in the second half of the league is expected to partner Arnab in the heart of the Indian defense. A cause of concern for the Indian team is that barring Arnab Mondal and Sandesh Jhingan none of the defenders have represented the national team.
The Indian midfield just like the defense lacks experience with none of the midfielders sans Francis Fernandes having played more than three matches. Playmaker Eugeneson Lyngdoh who was awarded the best midfielder award in the I League will be tasked with the responsibility of creating the moves for the Blue Tigers. Eugeneson’ s vision and through balls played a key role in Bengaluru FC’ s successful 2014/15 season and Constantine will be hoping that the 28 year old can deliver the goods for the national team as well. With no Lenny and Mehtab in the squad, Sehnaj Singh of Mohun Bagan is expected to take up the role of the defensive midfielder. Sehnaj’ s role will be particularly important as he will be up against Al-Raed – Oman’s attacking midfielder and if India have to get any point out of the match Sehnaj will have to keep Al-Raed under check. Francis Fernandes is the most experienced midfielder in the team and is expected to start on the right while Jackichand Singh on the left will aim to carry his excellent club form into the national team.
In what can be described as a 4-4-1-1 formation, coach Stephen Constantine is likely to start with Robin Singh as the target man with skipper Sunil Chhetri in a slightly withdrawn role behind him. With 45 goals in 77 matches, Chhetri is the leading Indian goal-scorer and is always the source of inspiration for the team. The trio of Eugeneson, Sunil and Robin play together at Bengaluru FC and their understanding should help the national team.
Possible Starting XI (4-4-1-1): Subrata Pal; Lalchhuan Mawia, Sandesh Jhingan, Arnab Mondal, Rino Anto; Jackichand Singh, Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Sehnaj Singh, Francis Fernandes; Robin Singh; Sunil Chhetri
Perched at the 101st position in the FIFA Rankings, Oman are one of the most improved teams of Asia. Though their French coach Paul Le Guen came under some criticism after a below par performance in the 2015 Asian Cup, the Frenchmen has excluded confidence ahead of the tie against India. Le Guen however has expressed his concerns over the uneven pitch at Sree Kanteerawa Stadium and Oman have arrived a couple of days in advance to prepare for the tie. Le Guen has been with the team since 2011 and understands the dynamics of the Oman team really well
Manning the goal will be the former Wigan and Bolton goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi and the presence of the 33 year old under the posts provides a calming influence to the team the back. Al-Habsi is the skipper of the team and is a veteran of 106 matches. The defense will be led by Abdul Salam Al-Mukhaini who plies his trade for Kuwait champions Kuwait SC. 27 year old Al-Mukhaini has also played in UAE and Saudi Arabia and is a vital cog in the team. He is expected to be partnered in the heart of the defense by Mohammed Al-Musalami of Fanja SC . Saad Al-Mukhaini, who in 2012 had a trial with Arsenal, is expected to tread the right flank. Al-Mukhaini is the most experienced defender in the team with 71 caps to his name. Al-Busaidi, who scored in 4-1 defeat to Algeria in March this year will start on the opposite flank.
The midfield will be led by 28 year old playmaker Eid Al-Farsi, who in 2012 had a trial with Wigan Athletic. Having signed for Al-Raed of Saudi Arabia for the upcoming season. Al-Farsi, who has featured in over 50 games for his country, is likely to play in the hole behind the two strikers. 30 year old Ahmed Mubarak Al-Mahaijri, a veteran of 122 games, is expected to accompany Al-Farsi int he heart of Oman midfield. Al-Mahaijri has played all over gulf – for top club of Saudi, Qatar, Kuwait and UAE and was part of the Al-Ain team that finished as runners-up in the 2005 AFC Champions League. A dead-ball specialist, Al-Mahaijri is expected to be the defensive screen behind the more attacking Al-Farsi. At the young age of 22, Raed Ibrahim Saleh already has 50 national team caps to his name and the highly rated Fanja SC player will be seen on the right side of the Oman midfield. Al-Nasr left winger Qasim Said completes the four man midfield for the Reds.
The attack will be spearheaded by Abdulaziz Al-Muqbali, the second player in the team who plays for Kuwait SC. The 26 year old has played in Saudi Arabia for Al-Taawon FC and was the team’ s leading striker in the Asia Cup held earlier in the year. With 36 international goals to his name from over 100 matches, 30 year old Amad Al-Hosni is the main source of goals for the Oman team. In 2009 Al-Honsi became the second player after Al-Habsi to play in Europe when he signed for top tier Belgium club R. Charleroi S.C. and though he failed to score, he made 8 appearances for his club. Al-Honsi is highly rated and has featured for top clubs of the region which include Al-Nasr of Saudi Arabia. The duo of Al-Muqbali and Al-Honsi will be looking to get on the score sheet against a relatively inexperienced Indian defense.
Possible Starting XI (4-4-2): Ali Al-Habsi; Al-Busaidi, Abdul Salam Al-Mukhaini, Mohammed Al-Musalami, Saad Al-Mukhaini; Qasim Said, Eid Al-Farsi, Ahmed Mubarak Al-Mahaijri, Raed Ibrahim Saleh; Abdulaziz Al-Muqbali, Amad Al-Hosni
Eugeneson Lyngdoh (India)
The central midfield in Indian teams in the past have been found to be non-existent while playing against higher ranked opponents and this is what makes the new Mr. Consistent of Indian Football Eugeneson Lyngdoh, the key player in the match. With his tireless running & vision, Eugeneson will have to ensure that the Indian midfield doesn’t become non-existent against the more experienced Oman midfielders. If India have to get any point out of this match, Eugeneson will have any important role to play.
Despite the presence of the more illustrious Al-Honsi, it is Abdulaziz Al-Muqbali who has led the Oman attack in recent times. Abdulaziz Al-Muqbali started in all three of Oman’ s fixtures in the 2015 Asia Cup and scored the winner against Kuwait which was Oman’ s only goal in the tournament. The Kuwait SC striker has scored 15 goals for the national team and will be looking to add to his tally against an inexperienced Indian defense.
India 1-2 Oman
Team India is expected to put a strong show against the more fancied Oman side who will eye all full points from this match. An inexperienced Indian midfield and defense gives Oman a definitive edge but the Blue Tigers will not go down without a fight in their first fixture at the Kanteerawa Stadium. TheHardTackle predicts a hard fought 2-1 win for the visitors.
Note : Sandesh Jhingan has been ruled out of the tie due to an injury. Gurwinder Singh of East Bengal may replace him in the team