In a high stake encounter, Blue Tigers has one last chance to fight for the pride of nation in Tricolors as they face off against Syria in their last round of match in the AFC Asian Cup 2023. The chances of India going past group stage now relies entirely on luck but this match will be a real test of perseverance and commitment for the entire 90 odd minutes. Blue Tigers have one last-gasp to show the Asian soil why they were once among top teams in the continent.
Head to Head
India and Syria are not strangers in crossing paths with each other in the past. Interestingly, it is the Blue Tigers who has a slender lead against Qasioun Eagles with three wins over two and a draw in a total of six games. It was in Nehru Cup 2007 group stage where these teams clashed of for the first time in history and Syria became victorious in the game. But, India took their revenge in the finals to lift the cup in home defeating Syria for a goal to nil.
History repeated itself coincidentally as they both went on to play in the same Nehru Cup 2009 where Syria won the group stage encounter while India emerged the champions once again by defeating Syria in the finals after a penalty shootout. The last time they locked horns was in the Hero Intercontinental Cup 2019 group stage match which ended as a draw in Ahmedabad.
L – L – L – W – L
L – D – D – D – W
It is not at all a good time and fortune is playing the flip side for the Indian side as they are coming after two successive defeats against Asian giants Australia and Uzbekistan in their first two games of the AFC Asian Cup. Their last win came against Kuwait in the World Cup Qualification round match last year. The outcomes do not suggest that India is a weak team. Instead, India consistently demonstrated resilience against superior teams, both in terms of overall quality and individual skills. The Blue Tigers faced the challenges with determination, coming out with a bag of learning from these two games.
As for Syria, they exhibited resilience and diligence in facing off against strong opponents like Australia and Uzbekistan. They successfully held Uzbekistan to a draw and narrowly lost to the Australians. But, there has been an instilled energy and mentality in this Syrian side under their Argentine tactician Hector Cuper who possess wealth of experience in leading numerous national and club teams across the world. They are a physically competent side lining up in 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1 setup without much rotations in place. Their last solitary win came against North Korea in their World Cup Qualification round match last November.
Do or Die
The outcome of this match is unpredictable, as it remains uncertain which team will step up and take responsibility. Both teams hold their pride, and their chances of qualifying for the next round depend on intricate permutations and combinations falling into place. Blue Tigers have been on a roller coaster ride filled with injuries to first team players that has costed them much in terms of versatility and delivering on the pitch against the Aussies and Uzbekistan.
However, the situation can be reversed in this match, as they are up against a depleted Syrian team that has not made significant changes to their starting lineup, a strategy their coach tends to avoid. In the pre-match press conference, Syrian gaffer, Hector Cuper said, “There is an idea that the manager changes players for the sake of rotation, but we need more harmony among the players”. This can be the trump card for the Indian side led by Croatian tactician Igor Stimac to take note and work on the field accordingly.
For Syria, their energetic, fierce mentality, and physicality is their weapon to demolish the Indian side as they were in the past two games. Syria exhibited strength in defense but lacked effectiveness in their attacking efforts. Syria’s defensive resilience may pose a challenge for India to overcome, but the former also needs to focus on finding ways to penetrate the Indian defense, as Australia and Uzbekistan successfully did.
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (GK), Nikhil Poojary, Sandesh Jhingan, Rahul Bheke, Akash Mishra, Apuia, Suresh Wangjam, Anirudh Thapa, Naorem Mahesh Singh, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Sunil Chhetri.
Ahmad Madania (GK), Aiham Ousou, Mahmoud Al-Aswad, Abdul Rahman Weiss, Thaer Krouma, Mouyad Ajan, Ezequiel Ham, Jalil Elias, Ammar Ramadan, Ibrahim Hesar, Pablo Sabbag.
It will be a mouth watering clash as both teams are in dire need of a win for their own reasons. India aims to get the three points for the devoted fans who consistently support them, while Syria who already visibly shown their cunning mentality to face off without fear and get the three points. It will be a match which tests the patience and perseverance of both teams where one who manages to overcome the hurdle will secure the win.
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