The Blue Tigers have lost just one of their last four meetings against the Angkor Warriors.

India will have no room for error when they take on Cambodia in the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers. The Blue Tigers have never qualified for consecutive Asian Cups and doing it in their own backyard will be a memorable feat. Stimac’s men will have the support of a 70,000-strong Kolkata crowd at the Salt Lake Stadium on 8th June in the opener.

The three games – against Cambodia, Afghanistan and Hong Kong could also determine Igor Stimac’s future with the team. India have lost each of the last three games – all international friendlies. However, Cambodia are a much weaker force on-paper compared to the likes of Belarus or Jordan.

Winning duels will be crucial in defeating a side like Cambodia, who will sit back and frustrate India. Here are three key battles that could potentially decide the fate of the game on Wednesday.

3. Glan Martins Vs Sos Suhana

Glan Martins
If he starts, Martins will have to mark Suhana in midfield (Courtesy: AIFF Media)

Sos Suhana has been the primary creative outlet for the Cambodian national team over the past few years. The 30-year-old’s sleek skills and speed will be crucial in launching counter-attacks for the Angkor Warriors.

He will be met with resistance from Glan Martins, who is becoming a familiar face in the national setup. Despite FC Goa enduring a forgettable season in the Indian Super League, Martins consistently threw his body on the line for his club on multiple occasions. Glan’s task will be to prevent Suhana from playing his natural menacing game.

As Cambodia will get men inside their own half to defend, Suhana will be crucial in their counter-attacks. He is the best ball-carrier on his side and Glan will need to cut short his runs and intercept his passes.

2. Sandesh Jhingan Vs Keo Sokpheng

Keo Sokpheng
Sokpheng will be a threat either as a central striker or from the wings (Courtesy: Instagram/@keo_sokpheng)

Sokpheng is the most potent weapon in Cambodia’s arsenal and will ask questions of the Indian defence. The 30-year-old striker will bear the responsibility of scoring the goals for his nation. His combination with Sieng Chanthea can have deadly repercussions for the Indian backline.

Sandesh Jhingan, the vice-captain of the national team and the AIFF Player of the Year for 2020-21 will shoulder the responsibility of nullifying their threat. Despite struggling with injuries in recent times, the 28-year-old played like his former self in the AFC Cup group stage. His leadership and defensive qualities allowed ATK Mohun Bagan to overlook the absence of Tiri, their foreign defender.

1. Manvir Singh Vs Soeuy Visal

Manvir Singh
Singh will be desperate to improve on his five goals in 31 matches in the upcoming qualifiers (Courtesy: AIFF Media)

The most fascinating duel to keep your eyes on. Manvir Singh has effortlessly blossomed into one of the best finishers in the country since donning the green and maroon of ATKMB. His partnership with Sunil Chhetri and Liston Colaco could define India’s future in this competition. The time has come for the Punjab-born striker to assert his prowess on the international stage.

However, Soeuy Visal will not make things easy for him. With over 60 appearances for his country, the Cambodian captain is renowned for not succumbing to pressure situations. He will lead their defensive line from the back and look to inspire his team in what will be a tough encounter for them. Manvir’s pace and height against Visal’s dogged defending will be a mouthwatering duel for every football fan to watch

While the ever-dependable Chhetri will be the main source for goals, Manvir will want to deliver the goods for his nation.

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