The 2023 King’s Cup will be a tournament from which the Indian Football Team will have a lot to learn. The Blue Tigers began their campaign with a loss to Iraq. Despite the defeat, fans and pundits lauded the team for putting in a commendable effort. After all, India held their own against Iraq, who are 29 places ahead of them in the official FIFA rankings and went on to lose on penalties. However, the third-place game against Lebanon will hurt India the most.
Last day, India fought Lebanon as both teams aspired to win the bronze at the very least. Heading into the game, Igor Stimac’s men were confident, considering they had gotten the better of Lebanon in recent matches. But, the Middle Eastern country had different plans this time, as a goal from Kassam El Zein was enough to seal the deal. Despite India’s best efforts towards the end of the game, they couldn’t win. The only positive from the match is that Stimac and his team have plenty to take away.
In this article, we will look at five takeaways for the Indian team from the King’s Cup battle against Lebanon.
1. Despite defeat at the King’s Cup, India looked good defensively
After some positive results in 2023, defeat at the King’s Cup is not something India would have hoped for. However, disappointment is not the only thing they will takeaway. A positive sign for the Blue Tigers in this tournament has been their defence. The pair of Anwar Ali and Sandesh Jhingan at the back have been rock solid. In the first game against Iraq, Ali and Jhingan were heavily lauded by people who watched the game.
Against Lebanon, the duo managed to keep up the same performance they delivered in the game prior. Despite conceding a goal, Ali and Jhingan warded off many threats from Lebanon. While Jhingan is a seasoned veteran, seeing a youngster like Anwar Ali rise to the task is great news for the Indian team. If the 23-year-old can keep up with his performances, he will soon develop into a vital player for his national side
2. Asish Rai is here to stay
Whether fans give it credit or not, playing as a full-back is never an easy task. However, against Lebanon, Asish Rai made it seem like a walk in the park. Early in the game, Rai showed incredible pace and dribbling to get past the defenders from Lebanon. Not only that, but the 24-year-old was also instrumental in creating some chances for India, which unfortunately did not result in goals. Overall, his combination with Lallianzuala Chhangte on the right flank proved dangerous for the opponents.
While the loss will indeed sting, seeing talents like Asish Rai rise to the occasion will be brilliant for manager Igor Stimac. Heading into future matches, it will be interesting to see who makes the cut between Rai and Nikhil Poojary. Another key thing fans will be interested in seeing is how Asish Rai performs in the upcoming ISL season. Given his performances at the King’s Cup, one can easily say that the Mohun Bagan player is one for the future.
3. Struggling to finish chances
When one analyses the match between India and Lebanon, it is hard to not acknowledge the former’s attacking efforts against their opponents. As a matter of fact, in terms of creating chances, India seemed to be the better team. Even when the first half ended, the Blue Tigers looked like the better team overall. Not only did the wingers work and create chances for India, but the central midfielders also played a vital role in creating some brilliant plays.
However, the lack of ability to finish is what cost the team. While Manvir Singh took his chances in front of goal, he came up short. Similarly, other players who tried did not have luck with regard to their finishing. It is safe to say Indian captain Sunil Chhetri was missed against Lebanon. While Chhetri’s absence can’t be used as an excuse, the attacking third of the Indian National Team will have to step up to the occasion if they are to win trophies.
4. Lacked Sunil Chhetri’s leadership
Since making his senior team debut with Mohun Bagan, Sunil Chhetri has only been a positive influence on Indian Football. From creating records with various clubs to dominating at the International level, the Indian captain has done it all. One such key feature of Chhetri’s career over the years has been his ability to lead his side and get them out of strenuous situations. Chhetri has been able to display calmness while also being vocal when necessary.
This leadership was missing against Lebanon and even in the game before that. While Sandesh Jhingan and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu did a good job, Chhetri, at this point in his career is at a level where the youngsters look up to him. Hence, having him on the pitch could change the game for a side. Apart from the 39-year-old’s leadership abilities, India also missed Sunil Chhetri leading the forward line. One can only imagine that if Chhetri had played, the Blue Tigers could have won the King’s Cup.
5. King’s Cup is a reality check for Team India
The year 2023 has been very special for Team India. During this time, India has seen a significant rise in football. While they have nurtured several talents who are doing well on a big stage, Igor Stimac’s men have also been successful in winning trophies. This year, the senior men’s team has been victorious at the SAFF Championship, Intercontinental Cup, and Tri-Nation series. In all these competitions, the Blue Tigers looked invincible.
However, this year’s King’s Cup served as a reality check. While it would be unfair to say the team was overconfident going into the King’s Cup, the lesson learned from the tournament is how unpredictable the game can actually be. Before the match against Lebanon, many fancied India’s chances given recent results between the two countries. However, that did not mean much, as Lebanon won 1-0. Therefore, this year’s King’s Cup will be a reality check for India in a very positive manner. It will help the team prepare well for the future.
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