Match Preview – India vs Mongolia, Blue Tigers or Blue Wolves?

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India and Mongolia will start off their Intercontinental Cup campaign on Friday evening at the Kalinga Stadium, Bhubaneswar. For India, it’s the start of the season and a long run of games till the Asian Cup in January. Whereas for Mongolia, it’s a rare opportunity to do their best against an international side.

The Groups for Qatar have already been drawn. India are grouped with Australia, Uzbekistan, and Syria. Head Coach Igor Stimac has expressed his intentions of looking for new players at certain positions, who gel well with the core. He has the chance to finalize his players and tactics in the coming months.

While the 183rd-ranked side may not pose much of a threat on paper, the Indian defenders could have an interesting individual to silence.

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Imphal set up a frenzy as India defeated Myanmar and Kyrgyzstan to win the Tri-Nation Cup in March. Plenty of positives were to be taken from the 1-0 and 2-0 victories against Myanmar and Kyrgyzstan respectively.

During that break, Mongolia went on a trip to Georgia to play the Georgian National Team as well as the top-flight club Dinamo Batumi. The Georgians found it too easy as they eased past the Blue Wolves with a 6-1 victory, on both occasions. Napoli star and Serie A MVP Khvicha Kvaratskhelia was an unused sub in the Georgia game.

Over the last year or so, Mongolia have found it difficult to arrange friendlies with international sides. Hence, they have been forced to play friendly matches against club-level opponents. Mongolia have only won two of their last nine games, one of which came in the Toyama International Cup against Japanese side Toyama Daiichi High School and another against Yemen last June. The high school side’s coach was Ichiro Otsuka, who went on the coach the Mongolian Men’s National Team.

Team News India

Igor Stimac trains his side ahead of India vs Mongolia [AIFF]
Igor Stimac during the training [AIFF]

Several players left the training camp as soon as the medical team assessed them. “The players who were released at the first instance were the players who carried injuries throughout the ISL season,” said Stimac. “The only player injured during the training was Suresh Singh. That is only because he wasn’t following the instructions during the practice.”

He added that Chinglensana Singh and Brandon Fernandes left the camp because of personal issues. In a first, the Hyderabad FC goalkeeper has been called up to replace Phurba Lachenpa.

India vs Mongolia – Head-to-Head Record

India has never played Mongolia before. It will be the first time these two countries face each other in football.

Probable Starting line-ups

India XI (433): Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (GK), Rahul Bheke, Sandesh Jhinghan, Anwar Ali Jr., Akash Mishra, Jeakson Singh, Apuia, Anirudh Thapa, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Liston Colaco, Sunil Chhetri (C)

Mongolia XI (4231): Enkhtaivan Munkherdene (GK), Tuvshinjargal Durguun, Purevdorj Bayartsengal, Munkhorgil Orkhon, Bilguun Ganbold, Dulguun Amaraa, Ayush Khurelbaatar, B Namsrai, Ganbold Ganbayar, Baljinnyam Batbold (C)

IFTWC’s Prediction

Match Preview - India vs Mongolia, Blue Tigers or Blue Wolves? images 4
Mongolia against Georgia in March 2023 [FIFA]

The interesting Mongolian forward in question is Ganbold Ganbayar. Even before turning 18, the now 23-year-old became the first-ever Mongolian to secure a professional contract overseas. He was selected to join the youth ranks of Hungary’s Puskas Akademia FC as part of a partnership between the Mongolian Football Federation and the Hungarian Football Federation.

In familiar terms, he plays much like Gyamar Nikum – except he is right-footed. The right-footer plays in the wings and leads the attack line alongside veteran Baljinnyam Batbold. Being on the books of Puskas AFC, he currently plays for KFC Komarno in the Slovakian second division. He scored a brace against Yemen to cap off the Asian Cup 2023 Qualification campaign.

The expectation goes that India will have more possession and will have more chances to bury the game. But finishing isn’t the best of attributes of Stimac’s side. For whatever accolades he has, Ganbayar shouldn’t be that big of a problem for players like Rahul Bheke and Sandesh Jhinghan.

IFTWC predicts a 3-0 victory for India against Mongolia.

The match will kick off at 7:30 PM following the opening game between Vanuatu and Lebanon. The game will be telecasted on Star Sports Network, Disney+ Hotstar, and JioTV.


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Chetan Anand
Chetan Anand
Radars Football, Cricket and Motorsports

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