Asian Cup qualifiers: India aims to end campaign on a high note against Afghanistan
Doha: After the confident 2-0 win against Bangladesh, the Indian football team led by captain Sunil Chhetri will look to bag full points when they take on Afghanistan in their last Group E match of the World Cup 2022 and Asian Cup China 2023 Qualifiers at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium in Doha on Tuesday.
Though, the 105th-ranked India are out of the contenders for the World Cup qualification, they only need to avoid defeat against Afghanistan (149th rank) to confirm the third spot behind leaders Qatar (22 points) and second-placed Oman (15 points) in Group E.
India currently has six points -- one more than Afghanistan and a win on Tuesday will help them enter the final round of the Qualifiers for the Asian Cup China 2023.
India's head coach, Igor Stimac, will count on the momentum generated by the 2-0 win against 'tricky customers' Bangladesh last week, when Chhetri scored a brace. India had also given a good account of themselves in the opening match against Asian champions Qatar on June 3, when despite being reduced to 10 men they conceded only one goal.
Coach Igor Stimac is expected to field his best XI to end India's campaign on a high note. Stimac at the official pre-match press conference said, “I need to say that I don't know any coach or any team who would come out playing for a draw. Even that might seem to be a situation when you are facing much better sides. Then, you need to drop and defend for your life and wait for one, two or three chances to counter-attack like against Qatar.”
“But, we are not going out to play for a draw. Rather, we will go out to win it. That's what we are aiming to do. We need to start doing it from the kick-off. I know and am very confident that all our boys are ready and fit. They need to enjoy the game,” Stimac added.
On the other side, Afghanistan, placed fourth in the table with five points, have had meagre picking here so far. With only one point from two matches, they will aim to finish ahead of India on the points table. Finishing fourth too would also likely be satisfactory to advance to the final round of Qualifiers for the Asian Cup China 2023. While, a win against Asian counterparts will help India enter the final round of the Asian Cup China 2023 qualifiers on a high.
Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu said it was crucial to stay fresh. “I think it's important for us to stay fresh and face this new challenge against a very good side. Afghanistan have good quality players who can manipulate the ball and convert if given the chance. So, we need to make sure that as players, we stick to the plan and that we make life difficult for the other team and try to finish with a smile," he said.
INDIAN BOYS ARE CONFIDENT
Stimac said that his boys are confident after the win against Bangladesh. "The result against Bangladesh makes us confident. We are very happy that with the three points against Bangladesh we secured getting out of the danger of playing in the play-offs. Afghanistan are a better side than Bangladesh, and it will not be easy," he said.
Stimac said he has tried to keep the players motivated. “Wearing the national team jersey is the biggest motivation for any player, and it comes with a huge responsibility. You know how big a population is backing us, and whoever is wearing the Indian shirt has that unique chance to make the 1.4 billion people proud,” he said.
Goalkeepers: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Amrinder Singh, Dheeraj Singh
Defenders: Pritam Kotal, Rahul Bheke, Narender Gehlot, Chinglensana Singh, Sandesh Jhingan, Adil Khan, Akash Mishra, Subhashish Bose
Midfielders: Udanta Singh, Brandon Fernandes, Liston Colaco, Rowllin Borges, Glan Martins, Anirudh Thapa, Pronoy Halder, Suresh Singh, Lalengmawia Ralte, Abdul Sahal, Yasir Mohammad, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Bipin Singh, Ashique Kuruniyan
Forwards: Ishan Pandita, Sunil Chhetri, Manvir Singh
Goalkeepers: Ovays Azizi, Faisal Hamidi, Hamidullah Wakily
Defenders: Masih Saighani, David Najem, Zohib Islam Amiri, Najim Haidary, Hussain Alizada, Sharif Mukhammad, Hassan Amin
Midfielders: Adam Najem, Noor Husin, Zubayr Amiri, Farshad Noor (Capt), Faysal Shayesteh, Maziar Kouhyar, Fardin Hakimi, Milad Intezar, Abassin Alikhil, Zelfy Nazary, Samir Samandari
Forwards: Jabar Sharza, Norlla Amiri, Omran Haydary, Amredin Sharifi, Omid Popalzay, Hossein Zamani, Fareed Sadat
(With agency inputs)