There are fascinating duels all over the pitch as the two pretenders for the grand stage pit their wits against each other.
The time has arrived when India begin their quest to attain qualification for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, as they face Oman in the second round of qualifying fixtures on September 5. The Blue Tigers are grouped against teams like Qatar, who are the current Asian champions, Oman, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
Thus, it is imperative for Igor Stimac’s men to open their account with a victory against The Reds, who will be under the management of Erwin Koeman.
Oman are a team that are on the rise and have tasted success of late in the Airmarine Cup, where they triumphed against teams like Afghanistan and Singapore. They also won their last game in preparation for the World Cup Qualifiers against Yemen with a solitary goal from Kano.
India, on the other hand, are in a transitional phase under the relatively new management of Stimac and his philosophy of possession-based play. The Croatian will be hoping to improve upon the Intercontinental Cup 2019 performance.
The last meeting between the two ended up in a goalless draw, but the respective managers of the two sides will be gunning for a victory to start the qualifying campaign on a positive note. Both teams will be banking on their key players to deliver on the night and guide their respective sides to all three points. Here are the key battles from the upcoming clash between India and Oman:
5. Lallianzuala Chhangte Vs Saad Al-Mukhain
One of India’s most pacey and electric wingers in Lallianzuala Chhangte will be up against one of Oman’s most experienced operators in Saad Al-Mukhain. The contest between the two will be interesting on the left flank, where the former Delhi Dynamos attacker loves to thrive.
The opposing full-back in Al-Mukhain will not find it easy to deal with Chhangte’s speed on the counter, but the new Chennaiyin FC recruit will need to brush up on his delivery and decision-making to hurt the experienced defender.
4. Pritam Kotal Vs Raed Saleh
Oman like to use the width of the field to stretch the opposition defence and this is where their winger Raed Saleh is a massive threat. The 27-year-old can play on either wing and has the tendency to make darting runs behind the opposition defence to deliver penetrating low crosses.
India’s right-back Pritam Kotal will need to stay sharp and maintain his concentration levels in order to contain the winger. Even though the 26-year-old is the preferred starter in the position, he will need to be more aware of his positioning and avoid giving away possession cheaply.
3. Sandesh Jhingan Vs Muhsen Al-Ghassani
One of the key players for India is their leader at the back Sandesh Jhingan, who must remain fit in order to help his country’s cause. The Kerala Blasters player is the most experienced defenders alongside Anas Edathodika and will be crucial in tackling the threat that will be presented by Oman’s main attacking outlet, Muhsen Al-Ghassani.
The 22-year-old forward impressed in the AFC Asian Cup and scored two goals in four appearances for the national side in the tournament. Muhsen has the ability to drop back and play intricate passes. This is where Jhingan will need to be careful not to get caught out of position while marking him. Moreover, his movement inside the box is also going to prove troublesome to deal with. Therefore communication between the Indian defenders needs to be on point.
2. Sahal Abdul Samad Vs Ahmed Mubarak Kano
Oman like to dominate the midfield to pressurize the opposition into making mistakes and giving the ball away due to forced errors. Ahmed Mubarak Kano is a central part of their midfield, where he helps in winning duels, loose balls and dispossessing the other side. The 34-year-old captain must not be allowed to grab the game by the scruff of the neck.
Despite losing the services of Amarjit Singh Kiyam, India will be dependent on their young midfielder, Sahal Abdul Samad to orchestrate a good passing rhythm using his technique and creativity on the ball. This contest between the experienced and a future prospect will be interesting to watch and whoever comes out on top may just also walk away with the victory.
1. Sunil Chhetri Vs Mohammed Al-Maslami
It goes without saying that India are heavily reliant on their captain to deliver the goods on the night. The skipper of the Blue Tigers, Sunil Chhetri will be under immense pressure both from the opposition and the expectations of millions of fans on his shoulders. He will be closely marked by Mohammed Al-Maslami of Oman, along with others.
Al-Maslami is an experienced centre-back and a key part of Oman’s back four. He will be tasked with the most important role, that is to prevent Chhetri any time and space. The 29-year-old will be up against a tough challenge though, as Chhetri likes to drop back in order to pull defenders out of position and can harm the opposition through his intricate movement in and around the box. A mouth-watering contest awaits for the fans.