India will face hosts United Arab Emirates (UAE) today in an important fixture of the AFC U23 Asian Cup 2022 qualifiers. The match is crucial for both the teams as the result could determine who will have the best shot at qualification ahead of the final matchday.
India will be playing with a spring in their steps after beating Oman 2-1 in the first match, courtesy of goals from Rahim Ali and Vikram Partap Singh. The victory was special in many ways for the Indian side. It was the first time after 2012 that the U23s have managed an opening day victory. It was also their first victory in the qualifiers since 2017 when beat Turkmenistan 3-1.
Despite training with a team which was assembled only a few days before the tournament started, the victory and the tactical stability of the team deserves credit. The game against UAE will be approached with the same mentality with strength in the back and pace in the counter attacks. A win today will put India in a favorable position for qualification.
The lack of natural centre forwards in the team is being compensated by the wingers and midfielders who have the ability to chip in with vital goals when needed. Pace and energy in the side will also be crucial for India as it can prove to be the difference maker. Players like Vikram Partap Singh, Bryce Miranda will look to exploit their pace to make things uncomfortable for the opposition.
The UAE on the other hand are coming back from a 1-2 defeat to the Kyrgyz Republic. The hosts will be looking for all 3 points to increase their chances of qualification. Having won just one match in the recently concluded WAFF U23 Championship, the current form of UAE is a cause for concern for them. However, the UAE are no pushovers. The team will look to get back to winning ways and hence a stronger challenge awaits India.
Igor Stimac is expected to have a slightly different starting lineup with a few players undoubtful due to injuries. Ashish Rai is unsure to be match fit for today’s game after picking up a knock in the previous match. Lalengmawia could feature in this match and the rest of the squad is fully fit.
Deepak Tangri will lead the defence after putting in a stellar performance in the last match. The coach is expected to go with the same formation which paid dividends last time. The two forwards helped in spreading the play high up the pitch which enabled them to connect with the wingers.
Against UAE, India will look to hit their opponents on the counter with pace while maintaining the solidity at the back. India also has formidable bench strength with players like Komal Thatal and Bryce Miranda.
Preferred Starting XI : Dheeraj Singh (GK), Hormipam, Deepak Tangri, Narender Gahlot, Akash Mishra, Suresh Singh, Lalengmawia, Vikram Partap Singh, Bryce Miranda, Rahim Ali, Aniket Jadhav
India are the underdogs on paper once again. But the recent poor form of UAE and their defeat to Kyrgyz Republic in the opening matchday give India a slight edge in this aspect. UAE will be going for three points to strengthen their hopes for qualification. While India could top the table with another victory.
Ultimately, it would be a test of mentality and endurance.
A draw seems to be a very likely outcome. But narrow wins for either of the teams also look probable.
Venue – Fujairah Stadium, Fujairah, UAE
Time – 22:00 IST
Telecast – Indian Football Team’s official Social Media
Follow our website for the latest updates on Indian Football