The Indian football team registered their first win of the ongoing World Cup Qualifiers against Bangladesh in the previous game. However, they need at least a draw against Afghanistan to finish at the third position in Group E and further their case for qualification to the 2023 AFC Asian Cup.
India’s 2-0 win over Bangladesh was welcoming, considering it was their first win after 11 matches and the first in the ongoing WCQ's (World Cup Qualifier). However, if they fail to keep up the momentum, the positive turnaround could well be short-lived, especially with them set to face Afghanistan - a team much more organised than Bangladesh, in the upcoming match. The Blue huffed and puffed to level the scores in the dying minutes to squeeze out a point in their last encounter against the Afghans. The memories are still fresh.
Scrolling through the stats, it is clear that India outclassed Bangladesh in all departments the last en-route to the victory. Enjoying 74% possession, completing 623 passes at a rate of 82% was by no means an ordinary count, but that’s expected when the Blue Tigers clash with a much lower-ranked team. However, recreating the same feat would be the top agenda when Igor Stimac’s men take the field in their penultimate WCQ.
Even though a draw would be enough to see the Indians finish as the third-placed team in Group E of the qualifiers, the players cannot step out with a similar mindset. Sunil Chhetri and Co. should be aiming to produce their top game to cross the hurdle. The one-week gap would help the players recharge their batteries ahead of the last dash. However, the synchronisation shown in the previous game will stuff the entire unit with the breathing space to take the field as favourites.
The duo of Manvir Singh and Sunil Chhetri upfront will hold key to India’s fortune, while Brandon Fernandes’ services in the midfield are likely to keep the supply chain flowing. Eventually, the odds are stacked in favour of India, with a superior set of players at their disposal. Anything less than a victory for India would be termed as an upset. The healthy head-to-head record against the Afghans, having lost just one game in the past, also works in their favour.
Indian head coach Igor Stimac has developed immense faith in Brandon Fernandes ever since he’s taken charge. The decision has paid off as the FC Goa star established himself as one of the finest playmakers in Indian football. Brandon’s ability to hold the ball, identify spaces and locate target men for supplying has worked in his favour immensely. His stellar display for FC Goa during the 2021 AFC Champions League just proved how he’s developed as a player. The footballer has provided three assists out of the five goals India has scored in the entire WCQ and he would be more than eager to sign off on a positive note.
Midfielders: Udanta Singh, Brandon Fernandes, Liston Colaco, Rowllin Borges, Glan Martins, Anirudh Thapa, Pronoy Halder, Suresh Singh, Apuia, Abdul Sahal, Yasir Md, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Bipin Singh, Ashique K.
Forwards: Manvir Singh, Sunil Chhetri, Ishan Pandita.
The gritty performance against the Indians in their previous outing against the Indians would be the main driving force before stepping into the field on Tuesday evening. Recently, Afghanistan showed great resistance in keeping the scores restricted to 1-2 en-route to a narrow loss against Oman. But, with a victory the need of the hour, the Afghanistan side cannot afford to sit back in the upcoming match.
Placed at fourth place in Group E, Afghanistan has only one win to their credit in the ongoing qualifiers, also coming against Bangladesh. Veterans like Zohib Islam Amiri and Masih Saighani will have their task cut out to combat the Indian attack, while Faysal Shayesteh will be instrumental in the play-making area. Overall, the Afghans possess the capability to keep the score-line identical but have to punch above their weight if they wish to register a victory.
The central defender was overlooked for the better part of Afghanistan’s World Cup Qualifying campaign but featured in their last two encounters against Bangladesh and Oman. What makes Masih Saighani such an important aspect in the upcoming game is the experience he’s had in the Indian domestic circuit. The Afghan was part of the Chennaiyin FC side that stormed into the final of the 2019-20 ISL final, with him playing a key role in the campaign. Having already played against the likes of Sunil Chhetri, Manvir Singh and Udanta Singh in the ISL, his presence at the heart of the defence would prove vital for his team's fortunes.
Ovays Azizi, Faizal Hamidi, Hamidullah Wakili, Milad Intezar, David Najem, Zohib Islam Amiri, Abdul Najim Haidary, Hassan Amin, Zelfagar Nazary, Hussain Alizada, Sharif Mukhammad, Abassin Alikhil, Omid Popalzay, Mohammad Naeem Rahimi, Samir Samandari, Farshid Haydari, Amiruddin Sharifi, Mustafa Zazai, Fardin Hakimi, Fareed Sadat, Ahmad Oman Haydary, Noor Husin, Maziyar Kouhyar, Farshad Noor, Fayzal Shayesteh, Adam Najem, Noraollah Amiri, Hossein Zamani, Zubayr Amiri, Jabar Sharza.
India vs Afghanistan (Match Details)
Match Date: 15-06-2021 Venue: Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium
Time: 7:30 PM IST
Telecast: Star Sports 2/ Star Sports 2 HD, Star Sports 1 Hindi/ Star Sports 1 Hindi HD, Star Sports 3, Star Sports 1 Tamil, Star Sports 1 Telugu, Star Sports 1 Kannada, Star Sports 1 Bangla