The match will also mark the Blue Tigers’ first home outing in nearly three years.

India start their AFC Asian Cup qualifiers 2022 campaign Vs Cambodia on Wednesday. The Blue Tigers are all set to face Cambodia in the first of three qualifying games in their group. This will also mark Igor Stimac’s side’s first game held in India in nearly three years — the first since their 1-1 draw against Bangladesh in October 2019.

Expectations are relatively high for Stimac’s side in the qualifiers. To keep the predictions of them winning the group in the right direction, they must start off strongly. Cambodia might be ranked 171 in the FIFA World Rankings, but there are no pushovers at this level.

India have to bring their very best to the table to overwhelm Cambodia. A win can be the perfect boost they need to lead the group, but dropping points can pose unnecessary hurdles in their qualification journey.

About the Teams

India

India comes into this game after having played their last 15 consecutive games away from home or in neutral venues. The COVID-19 pandemic stopped any international matches from taking place, but a sense of normality means India can again play on home turf.

They’ll be playing at the Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata – in which they played their last home game — a 1-1 draw against Bangladesh. Similarly, this time they also face a side that is lower-ranked than them in the FIFA rankings.

India’s loss to Jordan recently didn’t really spell disaster before the qualifiers. Jordan are a much more quality opposition than the ones they’ll be facing next. But Stimac is under pressure of guiding his side to produce some stellar performances and win this group.

For them to take early control of the group, a win is an absolute necessity. India have to bounce off the energy of the crowd to produce a scintillating performance against Cambodia. That includes playing some brave, attacking football and getting a dominant win to raise the confidence levels in the squad.

Sunil Chhetri on his memories of Kolkata and India’s chances in the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers

Cambodia

Cambodia have only qualified for the AFC Asian Cup once in their 60+ year-long history. That was itself was 50 years ago back in the 1972 edition, when they finished fourth! Since then, they have never made it past the qualifiers.

In fact, all their major success came around that early 1970s period. They won the Korea President’s Cup tournament in 1973 and the South Vietnam Independence Cup in 1972. Their record against India does not look great either. The Angkor Warriors have played India five times, losing on four occasions and just winning once.

But the Angkor Warriors have found a new sense of purpose under a new regime. Their joint-manager Keisuke Honda is a renowned ex-footballer, who played for AC Milan in his career. Japanese head coach Ryu Hirose is an experienced tactician in his own right.

Cambodia defeated Timor-Leste in their only match of 2022 ahead of the qualifiers. They realize their stance of being the underdogs in the qualifiers. But the Angkor Warriors will not give up a fight and might pop up with a surprise if grossly underestimated.

India Vs Cambodia predicted Formations

India

AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers India vs Cambodia
India’s probable lineup against Cambodia in AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers 2022

The Blue Tigers will have a couple of notable absentees for the Cambodia match. Rahul Bheke is out of the first match, while Lalengmawia will play no part in the qualifiers. Ritwik Das has contracted Chicken pox and has been replaced with Deepak Tangri in the squad.

Liston Colaco is struggling with a slight injury, but is expected to be fit for the game. Chinglensana Singh is also fit after recovering from a knock. India should play a more attack-minded formation for this game, possibly a 4-3-3 formation.

The front three should involve Liston and Sunil Chhetri both, while Manvir Singh could get the nod because of his experience of playing at the Salt Lake Stadium. The midfield should include Anirudh Thapa, Sahal Abdul Samad, and Suresh Singh for lots of energy as well as creativity.

Cambodia

AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers India vs Cambodia
Cambodia’s probable lineup against India in AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers 2022

Cambodia have traveled with a 23-man squad for the upcoming AFC Asian qualifiers. Their most experienced player is midfielder Sos Suhana, who has over 60 international appearances for the nation.

The Angkor Warriors play an attacking 4-3-3 formation under the current regime. There, could, of course, be changes to the set-up as they are facing a superior opposition like India in their own yard.

But with nothing to lose, Cambodia could take the fight to India with a more attacking stance and help put up a thrilling contest.

India Vs Cambodia Probable Lineups

India’s Predicted XI: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (GK), Pritam Kotal, Sandesh Jhingan, Anwar Ali, Subhasish Bose; Suresh Singh, Anirudh Thapa, Sahal Abdul Samad; Manvir Singh, Liston Colaco; Sunil Chhetri (C).

Cambodia Predicted XI: Keo Soksela (GK); Boris Kok, Tes Sambath, Soeuy Visal (C), Ken Chansopheak; Thierry Bin, Orn Chanpolin, Sos Suhana; Mat Noron, Keo Sokpheng; Sieng Chanthea.

India Vs Cambodia Players to Watch

Liston Colaco (India)

Liston Colaco
Colaco enters the qualifiers on the back of a superb club form (Courtesy: AIFF Media)

Liston Colaco is making a big case for himself being recognized as a potential successor to Sunil Chhetri for Indian football. The ATK Mohun Bagan winger has been in hot form over the last year or so. He had an impressive Indian Super League (ISL) campaign for the Mariners, scoring 8 goals and registering 6 assists. He also scored four goals in ATKMB’s AFC Cup group stages campaign, including a hattrick.

Liston’s mazy dribbling runs, menacing movement and clinical end-product makes him a major threat for any team. He’ll look to finally have his glory for the national team by bouncing off the Salt Lake Stadium crowd’s energy. Colaco’s energetic style and confidence means he’ll be a menace for Cambodia.

Sieng Chanthea (Cambodia)

Sieng Chanthea
Chanthea has been a regular feature for Cambodia under coach Keisuke Honda (Courtesy: Instagram/@sieng.chanthea)

Cambodia have their own young dynamite in 19-year-old forward Sieng Chantha. The teenager has been leading the line for his national team for quite some time now, having already made 18 appearances at such a young age. Despite his height (5’5 ft), Chanthea makes up with other skills in his arsenal.

The 19-year-old is a rapid player, who can drag defenders out of position and trouble with his skills with the ball. He’s represented his nation across all age levels and gained decent international experience at his age. Chanthea’s clinical finishing ability, unpredictable movement and link-up style can make him real trouble for the Indian defenders.

What to Expect

India are likely to take a more attacking, adventurous start as they look to entertain their home crowd against Cambodia. The Blue Tigers should pile more bodies forward and try to create crisp, passing moves using their creative midfielders as well as powerful wingers.

The hosts should dominate the game and look to score multiple goals. But Cambodia won’t go away with the fight and can make them pay if taken lightly. The Angkor Warriors are dangerous in swift breaks and stubborn defensively. They can put up a resilient showing and will make things very difficult for India.

Broadcast

The India vs Cambodia match will take place at the Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata on Wednesday (June 8) at 8:30 PM IST. It will be available to watch on the Star Sports 1 and streaming via Hotstar and Jio TV.

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