AFC Asian Cup 2019 | Why India should go for kill against UAE

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AFC Asian Cup 2019 | Why India should go for kill against UAE

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Subhayan Dutta

01/10/2019

India’s 4-1 win over Thailand in the campaign opener was largely unforeseen owing to their terrible recent history in the tournament. However, while the win has given hope to the Blue Tigers, they are up against a UAE side that has all possible ingredients blended well to win the tournament.

While everything looks to be going India’s way ahead of their much-anticipated clash against the hosts, after UAE were shockingly held by Bahrain to a 1-1 draw that included a dubious penalty going UAE’s way, one cannot discount the fact that the hosts have players who are faster, stronger, and way more seasoned than Sunil Chhetri and Co. India have been widely praised by one and all for holding their structure well, and especially their ability to work “collectively” as UAE manager Alberto Zaccheroni had recently pointed out. However, for all their teamwork, Stephen Constantine’s men don’t have one thing that is quintessential in such tournaments – experience.

While India were ousted in the group stages of the 2011 AFC Asian Cup, Zaccheroni had won it with Japan that year. India’s opponents in the last year have included the likes of China and New Zealand at best, while UAE have come against the likes of Slovakia, Gabon, Bolivia, Venezuela and more. Hence, as far as testing the squad’s talent against some of regular World Cup participants is concerned, UAE are ahead, apart from the blueprint that their manager has from eight years back of how to win the tournament.

However, as far as the team’s current form is concerned, Zaccheroni is in trouble. Prior to the Asian Cup, UAE had played 10 international friendlies in 2018, winning only three matches and losing four. Hence, their blatant draw against Bahrain couldn’t be easily dismissed as a one-off. And the fact that they are coming against an Indian side, who have had some encouraging results in their last few matches against better opponents, does make a huge difference.

Tactically speaking, while India have improved drastically over the last year, it is still their biggest conundrum. While the likes of Sandesh Jhigan and Anas Edathodika should have a height advantage over UAE’s preferred forwards Khaflan Mubarak and Ali Ahmed Mabkhout, their defence is highly susceptible from set-pieces as was evident in the only goal they conceded against Thailand, where not only were the players unmarked inside the box, but the goalkeeper was also way out of position.

Veteran striker Ahmed Khalil could be another thorn for India. Against the duo of Jhingan and Anas, UAE strikers Khalil and Mabkhout, who have 154 games and 88 goals between them, could run riot if given enough spaces. Despite winning 4-1 against Thailand, India let their opponents take nine shots, which could be enough to score for the UAE strikers. However, it is worth mentioning that they couldn’t get one at the back of the net despite Bahrain allowing them 10 shots.

As far, India’s strike force’s chances go in this match, UAE have conceded nine times in the last 11 matches and although Zaccheroni has two excellent defensive generals in the form of Fares Juma and Khaflan Mubarak, India’s high pressure followed by some prolific finishes tilt the scoreline in India’s favour. However, if there is one mistake that the Indian forwards wouldn’t want to repeat, it would be the diagonal crosses that they tried in the first half of the match against Thailand. Both Juma (181 m) and Mubarak (183 m) triumph in the air over India’s target man Sunil Chhetri (170 m), and Udanta Singh and Aashique Kuruniyan would need to look for more low crosses into the box this time. 

Last but not the least, while a change in the first team has been deemed unnecessary by numerous pundits after it panned out marvellously for the last match, UAE’s muscle could see a better challenge with the likes of Rowlin Borges and Balwant Singh in the mix. India’s chances of qualifying into the knockout stages of the Asian Cup are better than ever and a draw against UAE would assure it. However, with UAE’s strengths and weaknesses now well-acquainted to India and Constantine having the resources to break it, India would much rather want to go for the kill.

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