The Blue Tigers will look to dominate The Lions of Khorasan after picking an easy win against Cambodia.

The Indian football team started their third round of AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers on a positive note, with the 2-0 win against Cambodia. The Blue Tigers were in-charge throughout the game and came out victorious in front of the home fans. India will face Afghanistan as the next hurdle in the Asian Cup Qualifiers. The guests are coming off a 2-1 loss against Hong Kong

Irrespective of the recent results, the Lions of Khorasan have the mettle in their arsenal to give a blow to the aspirations of the home team. Igor Stimac is yet to win against the Afghans, as both the games in the World Cup Qualifiers were hard-earned draws. Keeping that in mind, before the referee’s whistle for this encounter, let’s have a look at three key battles that could impact the match:

3. Sandesh Jhingan Vs Omran Haydary

Jhingan had a decent game against Cambodia (Courtesy: Sandesh Jhingan FB)

Over the years, Afghanistan has seen the rise of quite a few sensational attacking talents, thanks to the European exposure they got. The 24- year-old Omran Haydary is one of those bright aspects of the Lions of Khorasan. He is good with both feet and possesses tremendous ability to switch play with his exquisite vision and pinpoint passing accuracy.

As expected, if Afghanistan play with two men upfront, Haydary becomes even more dangerous with the support he gets. Since he is not a natural winger and more of a drifting forward, Sandesh Jhingan will be the man for him. The ATK Mohun Bagan defender needs to be on his toes to nullify the threats from the young gun. 

2. Suresh Singh Vs Farshad Noor

Suresh will have the responsibility to stop Afghanistan’s captain (Courtesy: AIFF)

The Bengaluru FC man is one of the most exciting prospects in Indian football. Despite being only 21, Suresh has shown the technical prowess and composure of a veteran in the middle of the park. The youngster is likely to step in for Anirudh Thapa, who looked to have sustained a knock in the win against Cambodia.

In the current Indian squad, Suresh Singh is one of the best ball-carrying central midfielders. And all these attributes are enough to win the trust of the coach to go head-to-head against Afghan midfield maestro Farshad Noor on the pitch. Noor has been the engine of the visitors and every attack goes through him. The 27-year-old midfielder will again be commanding his team against the Blue Tigers’ comparatively younger midfield.

The team who dominates the middle of the pitch shall have an upper hand in the game. And the battle of these two wizards will be something to be excited about.

1. Liston Colaco Vs Najim Haidary

Najim Haidary has the key of the Afghani defense’s success against India (Courtesy: TM)

Thanks to the good work in the domestic setup, India now possess better options in attack, both quality and quantity-wise. Manvir Singh, Ashique Kuruniyan, the much-anticipated return of Brandon Fernandes and captain Sunil Chhetri may give the hosts an edge over the opponents.

Amidst all these players, Liston Colaco becomes key against a team like Afghanistan, who prefer to keep the ball and play from the back. Liston is known for his high pressing and can punish the defenders severely even for a minute mistake in the box. The recent form and trust of the team goes in favour of the talented winger.

But, the young and rousing 185cm tall defender Najim Haidary will be the primary hurdle in his path. The Afghan has become Anoush Dastgir’s favourite since his debut. He is praised for exceptional game-reading ability and composure at the back. Najim hardly commits to leaving vulnerable spaces to exploit and has the pace to match Liston. Hence, all this adds up to an expected high-tension battle between the two young prodigies.

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