Vikram Pratap Singh scored the solitary winning goal against Vietnam via a penalty.
India versus Iran is set to be the showstopper of Group C at the AFC U-16 Championship. On paper, both were regarded as the better sides in the group and after their respective games, it will be interesting to see how managers Bibiano Fernandes and Abbas Chamanyan respond to the upcoming game.
Iran lost their first encounter against Indonesia 2-0, but it would be a grave mistake to take them lightly. The 2016 finalists are one of the better teams in the Championship and India, who won 1-0 against Vietnam, must prepare with more grit and speed for this fixture.
About the teams
Skipper Vikram and Melvin are expected to play on the flanks, with D’Mello playing as a striker
India can be expected to maintain its shape, and play the preferred 4-3-3 formation with Niraj starting under the bar. Bikash Yumnam and Thoiba Moirangthem can be expected to continue in the central defensive positions, with Gurkirat Singh and Shabas Ahammed continuing their good runs on the full-back positions.
Watch: Vietnam 0-1 India
In the centre of the park, Ricky Shabong, Bekey Oram, and Givson Singh Moirangthem can be expected to keep their places. D’Mello is expected to play up front. Ridge Melvin and Vikram Pratap Singh will need to link well against the next opponents to make sure India continues in the right vein.
India, though, needs to understand that Iran attack with width, press high and defence with a narrow shape. It plays with six defenders, with two sitting midfielders playing parallel to the full-backs. India is helped by the wing support of Ridge Melvin and Vikram, who’re the key to creating chances against the Persian country.
The Iranians will be aiming to improve their finishing, which cost them their previous fixture
On the contrary, Iran play centrally while creating, and India’s midfield trio will need to ensure heavy pressing to break down play. Thus, the midfield holds the key defensively, while the wings will be looked for inspiration in terms of creativity.
For Iran, they did everything right against Indonesia in their opener – held up the game-play well, were fast on counters and created chances that even Nicklas Bendtner could easily convert. Iran were caught on the counter, and some poor finishing on their end and some good finishing from Indonesia saw the game end against what they had wanted.
Watch: Iran 0-2 Indonesia
The team, though, looked in good stead, with four forwards pressing and the two central defenders sitting deep. Breaking this team would be difficult, and India would need some good coordination, or a moment of magic, to inflict another defeat on this side.
Iran had a really good outing in the last AFC U-16 Championship which was held in India back in 2016 and asserted their dominance in the group stages itself. They rolled through most of their opponents, including India and thumped Vietnam 5-0 in the knockout rounds.
They managed to oust North Korea before making their first AFC U-16 Championship final in eight years, where they would face a cruel defeat by losing on penalties to Iraq. If they find their scoring boots, India may get into some real trouble.
The Bukit Jalil Stadium will host the second game for India against Iran. Located in Kuala Lumpur, the stadium seats 87,411 and that can be intimidating for young players. Owned by the Malaysian Government, the stadium boasts of a grassy pitch and was renovated in July last year for this tournament. The match will start at 6:15 PM IST.
What to expect
A lot of contrasting game-plays. India will chase with pace for a result down the wings, while Iran will create something through the central lines. Vikram and Ridge hold the key, and Danu’s finishing will have to be at its best to ensure India can usurp Iran’s domination. Meanwhile, coach Bibiano will be aware of the Iranian threat, and will need to grill his defence differently to ensure they don’t find too much space.