Both teams will enter this deciding clash with a perfect record in the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers.
The India national team have been flying high in the AFC Asian Cup 2023 qualifiers at home. They’ve maintained a 100% winning record so far. The thrilling late win over Afghanistan in the second game lit up the Salt Lake Stadium and provided a massive momentum booster for the Blue Tigers. India have also qualified for the AFC Asian Cup 2023 alongside Hong Kong following Palestine’s win over the Philippines in Group B.
But their final game in the qualifiers is also bound to be their most difficult one. That is because India’s next opponents are also unbeaten like them. Hong Kong are actually on top of the group with a superior goal difference. They’ve scored five goals and only conceded one in two games, winning both.
Hong Kong will provide a greater fight to India than their last two opponents. ‘The Strength’, as the team is nicknamed, are also determined to win the group themselves. For the Blue Tigers to cap off a perfect qualifiers campaign, they’ll need to save their best for last and produce a defiant performance to blow away the visitors.
About The Teams
Igor Stimac’s men have taken well to playing their first games on home turf after over two years and produced some compelling efforts in the last two games. Backed by the vociferous support at the Salt Lake Stadium, the players have pushed themselves to the limit and won consecutive games for the first time since the SAFF Championship win last year.
The Blue Tigers have dominated their last two games and created a lot of chances, playing an efficient style that involves precise crosses and quick movement in the final third. But they’ll have to ramp up their attacking intensity against Hong Kong, which has the best defensive record in the group.
India know they have to be more clinical in the final third and convert their chances better. The players need to be accurate and precise with their work, because any sloppy mistakes can be catastrophic.
There is no room for slacking off anymore. If the Blue Tigers are really hungry to win the group, they need to win. Both teams have already secured qualification to the AFC Asian Cup 2023. However, Stimac will be eager for a win so that India can prove their ‘favorites’ tag right.
Hong Kong were the second-highest ranked team heading into the qualifiers and have done a very impressive job considering the circumstances. Their players didn’t have proper training or practice games heading into these qualifiers. However, they’ve still admirably adapted to the difficult conditions and picked up decisive wins.
‘The Strength’ have deployed a very ‘no nonsense’ approach to games. They aren’t that bothered about dominating possession or putting up a spectacle, but just to get the job done. They finished off the two biggest chances they created to defeat Afghanistan and then overpowered Cambodia.
Jorn Andersen’s team is a well-drilled side and a hard nut to crack. Like India, they will also want to top the group and cap off a fine qualifying campaign with a victory.
Knowing how strong they have been defensively and clinical in finishing off their chances, Hong Kong will fancy their chances of getting result and ruining the party for the hosts.
India Vs Hong Kong Predicted Formations
Igor Stimac insisted in a recent press conference that there isn’t a ‘best XI’ that he’ll constantly choose for India. That itself means more changes can be on the horizon for the Hong Kong game.
Jeakson Singh will probably be out after suffering a knock against Afghanistan. Sahal Abdul Samad could get a start after his heroics in the last game, while Brandon Fernandes might also return.
Stimac hinted after the Afghanistan game that Sunil Chhetri could be rested, but that is unlikely knowing the importance of the match against Hong Kong.
Hong Kong have fielded two different formations in the two games so far. But they were able to go a more attacking routine against Cambodia after witnessing their defensive frailties against India.
They are likely to revert to a three-man backline for the next game. Andersen is likely to field a 3-5-2 formation against India, giving them enough defensive leverage to sit back and force India to push more bodies forward.
Their strikers Matthew Elliot and Sun Ming Him are clinical enough to trouble the Indian defenders and pounce on any given opportunity.
India Vs Hong Kong Probable Lineups
India’s Predicted XI: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (GK); Naorem Roshan Singh, Sandesh Jhingan, Anwar Ali, Akash Mishra; Suresh Singh, Sahal Abdul Samad; Manvir Singh, Brandon Fernandes, Ashique Kuruniyan; Sunil Chhetri (C).
Hong Kong’s Predicted XI: Yapp Hung Fai (GK); Law Tsz Chun, Fung Hing Wa, Wong Tsz Ho; Yue Tze-Nam, Huang Yang (C), Ju Yingzhi, Wong Wai, Sean Tse; Sun Ming Him, Matthew Orr.
India Vs Hong Kong Players To Watch
Ashique Kuruniyan (India)
He won the free-kick that was scored by Sunil Chhetri and showcased impressive composure in playing Sahal through for the winner. Kuruniyan’s incisiveness in the final third, productivity, and unpredictable movement makes him a major threat for India. If the Blue Tigers are to break open Hong Kong’s stubborn backline, they’ll need moments of magic from Ashique to do so.
Matthew Orr (Hong Kong)
After only making his debut for Hong Kong last year, Matthew Orr has become a vital part of the team. The 25-year-old striker has been on fire in the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers, excelling up-front for his side. Orr has scored in both the game so far, as well as getting an assist in the 3-0 win over Cambodia.
The Hong Kong No. 9 is a menacing figure up-front, with his clever movement and finishing ability making him difficult to contain. Orr can really trouble the Indian defenders with his smart work upfront. India also can’t afford to gift him any chances knowing his clinical instincts. The 25-year-old striker has to be kept quiet if India wishes to win the game, or else he can easily take the game away from the Blue Tigers.
What To Expect
This will be the game between the two strongest teams in the group and should be an enticing encounter. Hong Kong will not allow things to go India’s way and will look to frustrate them as well as the crowd with a defensive style.
The Blue Tigers will look to send the fans home happy with a thrilling attacking display, but also have to be wary of Hong Kong’s counter-attacking style. India should dominate the possession, but will have to be more clinical than they’ve been in the last two games to win this.
If they can’t be that and afford too many easy chances to the visitors, things could get really difficult for Stimac’s men.
The India vs Hong Kong game will take place on Tuesday, 14 June at the Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata. The game will be shown live on Star Sports 3 and be available for streaming on Hotstar and Jio TV.