hen Iran played hosts to India on March 24, 2016, the writing was already on the wall even before the match kicked-off. It seemed vague to conclude that a Team ranked almost 100 spots below Iran could earn a draw at the majestic Azadi Stadium, let alone win the fixture. The pertinent question, however, was, how many goals will Team Melli score? What will be the final score-line?
After 90 minutes of ruthless attacking display by Iran, the full-time
One man who should take all the credit for thwarting almost every Iranian attempt at goal with sheer acumen was Gurpreet Singh Sandhu. Had the
This is not the first time that Sandhu has proved his credentials. The former East Bengal goalkeeper played a pivotal role in India’s SAFF Gold Medal win proving to be almost unbeatable in between the sticks and making some fine saves in the final against Afghanistan. On the night of March 24th however, an inspired Sandhu could’ve saved India the blushes and might have even pulled out a clean sheet with the form he was in, had the Indian midfield and the Indian defence worked together as a single tightly-knit unit.
A non-existent Indian midfield is
However, one man in the Indian midfield stood out. Pronay Halder played like a man possessed as he went for the tackles, did the dirty work, covered his players, and the legs that he provided in the midfield disrupted Iranian attack. The Mohun Bagan midfielder was Stephen Constantine’s find and justified the Coach’s selection giving his cent percent on the pitch.
While Halder might be a decent option for shielding the Indian defence and heedlessly running around to mark the opponent, he still has a lot to learn in the technical department and certainly has a long way to go before being touted as a complete midfielder.
This still does not hide the fact that the Indian midfield was close to non-existent in the match, and with the midfield hovering around the Indian 18-yard box, the Indian attackers were often left reeling without service.
Playing with a 4-4-1-1, the Indian attacking department missed the services of Robin Singh, who was out of the clash nursing up an injury, which he picked up in India’s SAFF Campaign last December. The absence of Robin Singh clearly pointed out the fact that the Bengaluru FC forward is pivotal to India’s style of play. In the absence of Robin Singh, both Jeje and Halicharan Narzary struggled against the physical prowess of the Iranian defence, with no support coming from the midfield. With no focal point present upfront to pluck down balls from the air and feed the onrushing Indian forwards, India failed to register a solid shot at the Iranian goal.
Would the result have been different if India had gone with Robin Singh, Eugeneson Lyngdoh and talismanic captain Sunil Chhetri, who specialises in pulling the cat out of the hat? Probably not. The result would have still swayed in Iran’s favour, a team miles ahead of India in terms of technicality, tactical nous and everything concerning football. However the 4-0 performance is not as bad it sounds, given the fact that India were without the services of arguably its three most important players and with the National Camp being held for mere formality. Add to that the fact that Iran were leading by a solitary goal at half-time and two out of the four goals scored were via penalties.
The clash against Iran largely reflected that Stephen Constantine’s men showed character and girth but they lacked in technicality and skill, and that is where Iran overshadowed their opponents and took the game.