Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex, Muscat
13 October 2015
With four losses in as many matches, the Indian National Football team faces Oman in yet another away game of the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers. While India went down 2-1 to Turkmenistan in their last game, Oman held Iran to a 1-1 draw. The last time the two teams squared off each other was in the reverse fixture in Bangalore when Oman defeated India by 2-1 despite a wonderful strike by Sunil Chhetri.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Ranked 102nd in the world, Oman under the tutelage of French coach Paul Le Guen come into the match against India full of confidence having held Iran to a 1-1 goal in their previous match. Despite missing their star striker Abdulaziz Al-Muqbali, the Reds as they are fondly called will be eyeing nothing less than three points against an under-prepared Indian side.
Skipper Ali Al Habsi comes into the match with lots of confidence after a clean sheet in Reading’s 2-0 win against Middlesborough in an English Championship tie and the 33-year-old will be looking to keep another clean sheet in the match against India. The defence 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 defence by Mohammed Al-Musalami of Fanja SC . Saad Suhail, who in 2012 had a trial with Arsenal, is expected to tread the right flank. Suhail, the most experienced defender in the team with 76 caps to his name, scored the opening goal for Oman against Iran. Al-Busaidi, who scored in the 4-1 defeat to Algeria in March this year will start on the opposite flank. Both Suhail and Al-Busaidi troubled the Indian defenders with their overlapping runs in their 2-1 win earlier in the year.
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 in the heart of the Oman midfield. Al-Mahaijri has played all over the gulf a for the top clubs 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. While Said scored the opening goal against India in Oman’s 2-1 win, Raed was on target in his team’ s 3-1 win over Turkmenistan.
With 37 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 Oman player after Al-Habsi to play in Europe when he signed for top tier Belgium club R. Charleroi S.C., and even though he failed to score, he made 8 appearances for his club. Al-Honsi is rated highly and has featured for top clubs of the region which include Al-Nasr of Saudi Arabia. In absence of Abdulaziz Al-Muqbali, 22-year-old Saud Al-Farsi is expected to partner Al-Honsi in the two-man attack.
Possible Starting XI (4-4-2): Ali Al-Habsi; Al-Busaidi, Abdul Salam Al-Mukhaini, Mohammed Al-Musalami, Saad Suhail; Qasim Said, Eid Al-Farsi, Ahmed Mubarak Al-Mahaijri, Raed Ibrahim Saleh; Saud Al-Farsi, Amad Al-Hosni
The tough away game against Oman couldn’t have come at a worst time for the Blue Tigers who are win-less in their last six matches. The team is under-prepared as the players weren’t released by the ISL franchises, and the players are short of fitness as was evident in their second-half performance against Turkmenistan where the Turks toyed around with the Indian defence. The team’ s preparations were further hampered as they were stuck at the Ashgabat International Airport in Turkmenistan for several hours due to late arrival of flights and reached Muscat a day later than schedule.
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu gave a good account of himself in the match against Turkmenistan and looks set to continue under the post for team India. The defence will yet again be led by the duo of Arnab Mondal and Sandesh Jhingan both of whom will have their task cut out against their superior Oman attackers. The first goal that the Indian team conceded in Bangalore was a defensive lapse and the duo of Jhingan and Mondal will have to be on their toes throughout the match as an early goal can damage the confidence of the Indian team. Narayan Das had to be replaced at half time due to breathing problems, and the FC Goa left back may be benched in this match in favour of the more experienced Dhanachandra Singh. Pritam Kotal looks set to retain his place. The Indian back four will have to show the same resolute spirit as they did in the home match against Iran in order to ensure a respectable performance.
The Indian midfield has been guilty of not creating chances for the forward line and the trend continued against Turkmenistan where the Blue Tigers were reduced to mere spectators and it remains to be seen if the midfield can improve its showing in the match against Oman. While Jackichand is injured, Pronoy Halder is believed to be short of 100 percent fitness which means the options for Constantine are thin. Eugenson Lyngdoh and Sehnaj Singh started in the match against Turkmenistan and though Eugenson looks set to start again, Rowlin Borges who impressed in the match against Iran and came on as a substitute for Sehnaj Singh, could be handed a start in this match.
In what is most likely to be a 4-2-3-1 formation, Robin Singh should start on the left side of the midfield with Francis Fernandes on the opposite flank. Cavin Lobo could have a role to play in the second half. Sunil Chhetri will play in a withdrawn role behind the lone striker as was the case in match against Oman. Having failed to score in the last three matches, Chhetri would be looking to get his name on the score sheet but the Indian skipper is expected to be heavily marked yet again. Jeje Lalpekhlua scored India’ s only goal against Turkmenistan and will be deployed as a lone striker. The Indian team, mentored by Constantine, is expected to sit back and defend in two lines of four as was the case in the home match against Iran and will rely on the counters to cause any damage to the hosts.
Possible Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Gurpreet Singh Sandu; Dhanachandra Singh, Sandesh Jhingan, Arnab Mondal, Pritam Kotal; Eugenson Lyngdoh, Rowlin Borges; Robin Singh, Sunil Chhetri, Francis Fernandes; Jeje Lalpekhlua
Amad Al-Hosni (Oman)
With two goals so far in the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification campaign, Amad Al-Hosni will be the key figure for Oman in the attack in the absence of Abdulaziz Al-Muqbali. The Flying Omaniman, as he is popularly called, will be looking to add to his tally against an inexperienced Indian defence.
Sunil Chhetri (India)
Sunil Chhetri has been India’ s go to man whenever the chips have been down and in a situation where the players are low on morale and confidence, Sunil Chhetri will be the key player. He will look to get back on the score-sheet and will also look to inspire his teammates to put in an improved performance.
Oman 3-0 India
Oman are a tough side to play, especially when they play at home, as is evident by the fact that they held Iran to a 1-1 draw. The gulf between the two sides is clearly noticeable and the last time India played Oman in Oman was in 2012 when they were dubbed 5-1. Oman are favorites for the match and will be looking not just to win but to win big in order to put pressure on Iran. TheHardTackle predicts a 3-0 win for the hosts.
Blast From The Past
Here are the highlights from the match between India and Oman earlier in the year which Oman won 2-1