The Blue Tigers will resume international football after a 16-month gap against Oman, at the Maktoum Bin Rashid Stadium, in Dubai, on Thursday evening. The Gulf nation has already defeated India twice in the 2022 World Cup Qualifiers, with the last match H2H match ending 0-1 in Oman's favour.
India’s campaign at the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers did not turn out an inch of what they were actually expecting, with the 0-0 draw against Qatar back in September 2019 overshadowing the miserable show. At least expected to overpower the likes of Bangladesh and Afghanistan, with Oman and Qatar favourites to storm away, the Blue Tigers have failed to secure a single win so far in the qualifiers, which leaves them in jeopardy of finishing at the fourth in Group E. But, the upcoming friendly matches will be a big boost for the remaining qualifiers, scheduled in June.
Oman - although not a powerhouse in Asian football, has a strong foothold in the Gulf region. Having already played a couple of matches against them in the qualifiers, India would be in an advantageous position as far as Thursday’s match is concerned. Incidentally, India's last international was played against Oman in November 2019. The only inspiration Igor Stimac’s men can draw from the game is the way they managed to restrict Oman to a 0-1 win at the Sultan Qaboos Stadium, in Muscat.
India will miss out on the likes of Sunil Chhetri in the upcoming matches, with the talismanic striker testing positive for Covid-19 while Abdul Sahal Samad is also set to miss out. Apart from that, Igor Stimac has a full-strength at his disposal, with most of the players who featured in the previous fixtures all in great touch and in the hangover of the 2020-21 Indian Super League.
Adding to the arsenal are the young guns that impressed in the domestic circuit, with the likes of Akash Mishra, Ishan Pandita, and Hitesh Sharma getting a maiden national call-up. With Igor Stimac vocal regarding him building up a team for the future, we are expecting him to field the rookies in the double fixtures, as India win for their first-ever won over Oman.
With Sunil Chhetri absent from the squad, Manvir Singh needs to fill in the shoes of the primary striker, teaming up with Ishan Pandita if the need arises. The footballer did not have much of an impact in the previous encounters, but his glittery display in the 2020-21 ISL has changed the whole perception. With six goals and three assists, he was instrumental in ATK-Mohun Bagan’s ascendency to the final of the league and securing a spot in the next season of the AFC Cup. The renewed Manvir Singh is going to be an asset for the national team, while Igor Stimac has no option but to field him.
Forwards: Manvir Singh, Ishan Pandita, Hitesh Sharma, Liston Colaco
Oman ranked 81st in the world right now, are undoubtedly the favourites when they take the field on Thursday evening. Their performance at the 2022 World Cup Qualifiers has been fruitful so far, having won four matches out of their five, losing to Asian champions Qatar, back in 2019. Moreover, Oman has already done a double over India in the qualifiers, with them most certainly to qualify for the next round too. Unlike India, the Gulf nation has already played a match against Jordan last week, which puts them in better shape ahead of the game.
Although Branko Ivankovic has managed one game so far after he was appointed as the head coach of Oman in January 2020, he’s had a fair bit of time to gauge the strengths and weaknesses of his players. The former Iran head coach’s primary aim will be to keep their exceptional no-loss record against India intact, as well as gear up for the remaining matches in the qualifiers that include a home game against heavyweights Qatar.
Having plied his trade in the Iranian top-division league in the previous season, Al-Ghassani has come up the ranks gradually since making his professional club debut in 2015. With the striker making his first appearance for the Oman national side in 2017, Ghaassani has been amongst the goals in the past couple of years, having netted twice in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup and a similar number in the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers. It was his strike against India in the last H2H tie that allowed Oman to walk away with full points. India would not dare to mess with the forward.
India vs Oman (Match Details)
Match Date: 25-03-2021
Venue: Maktoum Bin Rashid Stadium, Dubai.
Time: 7:15 IST
Telecast: Indian fans can view the live telecast of the game on Eurosport TV channel, which can also be streamed be streamed on Jio TV.