The Blue Tigers made a perfect start to their campaign with a win over Cambodia.

The Indian national team’s AFC Asian Cup 2023 qualifiers campaign got off to an ideal start with a commanding win over Cambodia. They sit in first place in Group D after the opening round of matches, but the journey to qualification is still far from finished. India still have two games to play and next up is a hungry Afghanistan side.

The Lions of Khorasan are ‘gunning for revenge’, as per head coach Anoush Dastgir. After suffering a shocking loss to Hong Kong, Afghanistan will be determined to get a result here.

Igor Stimac’s men can’t expect an easy ride at all against Afghanistan and will have to put their best foot forward to grind out another win.

About the Teams

India

India marked their return to home soil with a very comfortable win over Cambodia in their first AFC Asian Qualifier group game. It marked their first win at home after almost four years. Their last home win was back on 10 June, 2018, against Kenya in the Intercontinental Cup final.

The Blue Tigers will have spring in their steps with the win. Anything but a victory would’ve been a poor start to the group stages and crumbled up unnecessary pressure. But now they are the ones going into the game in a confident fashion and high in momentum as well.

Stimac’s side are currently topping their group after the opening game win. Another commanding win can help them take one step closer to securing qualification, especially if Hong Kong drop points against Cambodia in their next game.

Knowing the surprise package Hong Kong have proven to be, India cannot drop points in this either. They will face a charged-up, passionate Afghanistan side yearning for a win and revenge. But India needs to keep a cool head, follow the plan and use the passionate crowd’s energy to get a crucial win and take another step closer to confirming their place in the 2023 Asian Cup.

Afghanistan

Afghanistan go into this game with their backs on the wall. The opening day loss to Hong Kong was surely not in their plans. The Lions of Khorasan created a lot of big chances in the game, but just weren’t clinical enough to outscore their opponents.

But they did put up a brave display by playing encouraging, attacking football against Hong Kong. It’s perhaps a preview of how they’ll play against the Blue Tigers as well. Afghanistan are desperate for a win, which means they won’t just sit back and look to hit on counter-attacks.

They have some attacking talents that will want to prove their quality against India. Anoush Dastgir’s men are vying for revenge after being unable to defeat India in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers group stages.

Afghanistan have drawn their last two games against India, but that won’t be enough this time. They’ll have to take the fight to the hosts, put them under intense pressure as well as identify and capitalize on their weaknesses to get the win and keep their Asian Cup qualification dreams alive.

Afghanistan Vs India Predicted formations

India

Afghanistan vs India Predicted XI
India’s probable lineup against Afghanista in AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers 2022

India played with a more attack-minded 4-2-3-1 formation against Cambodia. Igor Stimac decided to unleash his most potent attacking options with Liston Colaco, Sunil Chhetri and Manvir Singh spearheading the front three.

Stimac should be expected to retain that trio against Afghanistan as well. In fact, there shouldn’t really be many changes to the side who won against Cambodia as the head coach would want to keep playing the winning formula.

Anirudh Thapa, however, is a doubt for this game after suffering a knock in the Cambodia win. Rahul Bheke could be back in contention as Stimac confirmed that he’ll recover in time for the Afghanistan game.

Afghanistan

Afghanistan Vs India Predicted XI (2)
Afghanistan’s probable lineup against India in AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers 2022

The Lions of Khorasan suffered a bitter loss in their first game, but are unlikely to change their system too much for this game. They are expected to retain their 4-2-3-1 formation and not go more defensive against India.

However, there should be changes in personnel after what transpired against Hong Kong. They should play their natural centre-back Zohib Amiri, who has a lot of experience of playing in India – having done so with Chennai City FC and Gokulam Kerala.

Gokulam star Sharif Mukhammad should also start knowing his experience in playing against multiple Indian players.

Afghanistan Vs India Probable Lineups

India’s Predicted XI: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (GK); Naorem Roshan Singh, Sandesh Jhingan, Anwar Ali, Akash Mishra; Suresh Singh, Sahal Abdul Samad; Brandon Fernandes, Manvir Singh, Liston Colaco; Sunil Chhetri.

Afghanistan’s Predicted XI: Ovayz Azizi (GK); David Najem, Sharif Mukhammad, Zohib Amiri, Najim Haidary; Farshad Noor, Noor Husin; Maziar Kouhyar, Omid Popalzay, Omran Haydari; Mushtaq Ahmadi.

Afghanistan Vs India Players to Watch

Brandon Fernandes (India)

Brandon Fernandes
Fernandes assisted the second goal against Cambodia (Courtesy: Khel Now)

Getting to start in his natural no.10 role served Brandon Fernandes a lot of good against Cambodia. The FC Goa midfielder ran the show for India, with the majority of the attacks going through him. Fernandes’ excellent crosses constantly threatened the visitors and he assisted Sunil Chhetri’s second with a peach of a cross. India are still very reliant on quality crosses and set-piece deliveries for goals.

Fernandes is one of the best, if not the best, crossers in the team. His accurate set-pieces and ability to find that special, defence-splitting passes is guaranteed to torment Afghanistan. If he can find his groove and get some free space in the final third, Fernandes should help create a lot of big scoring chances that will increase India’s chances of winning.

Farshad Noor (Afghanistan)

Farshad Noor
Noor scored Afghanistan’s only goal in their defeat to Hong Kong (Courtesy: Instagram/@theaffofficial)

Afghanistan also have their own ace-in-the-hole in midfield in the form of captain, Farshad Noor. The 27-year-old is a really versatile player who can play a variety of roles. It includes defensive midfield, centre-midfield, and attacking midfield. He plays at the heart of Afghanistan’s midfield and a lot of their progress goes through him. Noor was his side’s only goal-scorer in the 2-1 loss to Hong Kong, showcasing a lot of grit and aggression.

He’ll be tasked with stopping the flow of India’s attacks, keeping their dangerous midfield outlets quiet, and also taking things forward. But the energetic, hard-working Noor has proven capable of going the extra mile for his side. He’ll give his sweat and tears to help Afghanistan get a result, making him a dangerous aspect of their team.

What to Expect

India can’t expect the game against Afghanistan to be as comfortable and relaxing as it was against Cambodia. The Lions of Khorasan have faced them in recent years and have an understanding of their strengths & weaknesses.

With pressure mounting on them, Afghanistan will look to take the game to India. They’ll attack in numbers, press high and make things uncomfortable. The Indian players have to dig deep, be clever with their attacking patterns & decisive in the final third to get a result. All in all, this should be a thrilling battle decided on the small margins.

Broadcast

The India vs Afghanistan match will take place at the Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata on Saturday (June 11) at 8:30 PM IST. It will be available to watch on Star Sports 3 and streaming via Hotstar and Jio TV.

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