Asian Cup 2023 – India’s Brave Stand Against Socceroos

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The Socceroos were always a favorite for this game but it would be fair to say that Igor Stimac’s men had them worried as they managed to keep them at bay for the opening 45 minutes. Graham Arnold and his team were getting visibly frustrated after not finding it easy to score or even find themselves in a goal scoring situation for most of the first half. They seem to have underestimated the Indian side who showed excellent grit and character on field. 

India

The first half of the game saw the Blue Tigers fight like brave-hearts giving their everything and defending against the raving Australian team which kept taking power-packed shots with little to no precision. 

The Indian defensive unit along with all the support they could gather played remarkably well and kept the score 0-0. The two center-backs Rahul Bheke and Sandesh Jhinghan were able to close out spaces, forcing Australian forwards Mitchell Duke, Craig Goodwin, and Martin Boyle in the wide areas.

Read – AFC Asian Cup 2023 – Does India Stand a Chance?

One has to mention the debutante Deepak Tangri who not only held his defensive duties but also provided India the only real chance of the game in the 16th minute with a cross from the right flank which found Chhetri’s head, who took a determined flight, but it went just wide.

Tangri was the best player for the Indian team after Sandesh Jhinghan who played majority of the game with a bandage on his head and still managed to defend firmly.

Breaking The Deadlock

Australia broke the deadlock with a bit of luck in the 50th minute of the match. A cross by Martin Boyle forced Gurpreet Singh Sandhu to punch it away from the face of the goal but the lack of power behind the punch saw the ball drop in front of Jackson Irvine who chested it down comfortably and volleyed it in with his left foot.

India

After the 60th minute mark, the Australian team having taken the lead, had temporarily taken their foot off the gas allowing India the space to play out in the final third of the field. 

India was seen pressing high up the field and in the 69th minute, having forced the Aussies to play a dangerous back pass, saw the GK Mathew Ryan off his position and the ball slowly moving in towards the goal. However, some quick response by the captain was enough to avoid any blunder.

Soon after, in the 72nd minute, after an absolute masterclass of a run from McGree who squared the ball perfectly for the substitute Jordan Bos he made no mistake.

The Socceroos coach made four quick substitutions in the span of 10 minutes which proved to be vital in the game as the fresh legs combined to get the second goal of the night to secure the win and the three points.

India

“I can honestly say that we have got to improve a lot more than that,” said Graham Arnold, who was responsible for Australia’s last major tournament appearance, the knockout phase loss to Argentina in the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

Their defensive unit hardly had to do any work all evening with the majority of the game being played in and around the team India’s penalty box.

On the other hand, the Indian GK was tested time and again and had to be on his toes throughout the game. Gurpreet Singh Sandhu made a fantastic save in the 80th minute as he pushed away a quick curling free-kick from the substitute Bruno Fornaroli.

Substitutions from the Indian coach Igor Stimac came a little too late in the game after having conceded two goals. The team wasn’t able to do much and was simply outplayed by the side ranked 25th in FIFA World Rankings.

For a country ranked 102, having played the match the way they did, there’s more to remember and be proud of than to forget and move on. The coaching staff and the squad have done enough to provide positive takeaways from the match.

“I’m not so happy with the result at the end because both goals came out of sloppy reactions. These goals didn’t come out of Australia’s brilliant display or action; it came just because of our irresponsibility at certain times,” Stimac in his post-match press conference, seemed upset with the outcome but happy with the performance.

India will play their next match of the AFC Asian Cup 2023 against Uzbekistan on January 18 at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium at 20:00 IST.


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