Talking points as India thrash Kenya to win Intercontinental Cup

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Talking points as India thrash Kenya to win Intercontinental Cup

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Subhayan Dutta

06/10/2018

India finished their Intercontinental Cup campaign in some style as yet another brace from Sunil Chhetri sealed a comprehensive 2-0 win over Kenya in the final on Sunday. The tournament saw some brilliant solo displays too from the Blue Tigers as the side look more than prepared for the Asia Cup.

There’s no stopping Sunil Chhetri

At one point during the initial stages of the game, after India had just seen some of their half chances being almost converted into genuine ones by their captain Sunil Chhetri, the commentator was heard saying, “We’re lucky to see Chhetri playing”. He was true to every letter of what he said. Coming into the game with just two goals behind Lionel Messi for the nation, Chhetri looked sharper than ever inside the box. While the first goal needed the cunning fox to lose his marker from the set-piece to slot in a drive into the back of the net, the second goal saw a striker playing at his peak providing the subtlest of finishes. Everything about it was class - the control of the chest in a manner that the ball bounces right in front of his weaker foot and then a speedy grounded drive into the corner of the far post from under the goalkeeper’s arms. Chhetri ends the Intercontinental Cup with a whopping eight goals from four games (that included one hat-trick and two braces) taking his goal tally to 64, which is now equal to the Argentine captain. And given the encouraging turnout that Mumbai has seen in the tournament following Chhetri’s heart wrenching video, he is rightly the Man of the tournament for more than just scoring reasons. 

India look ready for World Cup qualifiers

Before the final game on Sunday, a delighted and satisfied Stephen Constantine had stated that all his targets from the Intercontinental Cup were fulfilled. And given the manner in which India had gone on their way in the tournament wouldn’t state anything else. The motive behind inviting three totally different teams in the tournament was for the national side to face separate challenges, and India reacted pretty well to adversity. While the win against Chinese Taipei was smooth as butter, the waterlogged second game needed the side to defend and hold their tower strong against an ultra-offensive Kenya side before India began their goal fest. While the loss against New Zealand wasn’t foreseen, India’s tremendous mentality was on display for all to see. They were definitely the second best in most aspects but that it didn’t stop the players pushing at the right circumstances and get the first goal. Although the side is still looking at vast improvements, one cannot deny the fact that this bunch could challenge some of the strongest of teams across the world. With a fluid formation and some very versatile players, the boys can be seen taking different approaches against distinct opponents and get the results. India were terrible in the WC qualifiers last time in 2015 where they had all their games against Oman, Guam, Iran, and Turkmenistan and the improvement since then has been marvelous and now India have a team that has an average age of just a shade over 27 which means that most of the players will be in peak condition by the time the 2022 World Cup Qualifiers come calling. So, we won’t be surprised if we see the Blue Tigers put in a good show at the 2022 World Cup Qualifiers.

An unshakeable defence the foundation for India’s success

India looked a completely different team on Sunday as compared to the one that went down against New Zealand in the last match. And the biggest difference between the two games was their centre halvesSandesh Jhingan and Anas Edathodika. In these two, Constantine has found the perfect blend of fearlessness and technique that didn’t concede a single goal in the three games they started. Hence, if finding the right combination was one of the aims for India in the Intercontinental Cup, the coach is now crystal clear who will protect their goal. While Jhingan has been the first choice for the national team for quite some time now, Anas has taken over the position of veteran Arnab Mondal among others brilliantly with his sheer recovery pace and game reading skills. Their brilliant coordination has actually helped Pritam Kotal and Subhasish Bose to overlap the wingers whenever India have countered. One other man who has played an equally important role at the back is Gurpreet Singh Sandhu. Given the scary displays by Indian goalies in the Indian Super League, India’s goalkeeping future looked dark as hell. The Bengaluru FCshotstopper has brought stability at the back more than anything with his steady hands from set-pieces. He had to come up with a stunning save in the 77th minute from Ovella Ochieng’s free-kick which, if had gone in, could have paved a way back for Kenya into the game. 

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