The Blue Tigers failed to clinch a win in either games.
Indian national team’s recent camp at Dubai ended with a humbling 0-6 defeat against the hosts, United Arab Emirates (UAE). They began with a 1-1 draw against Oman and India head coach Igor Stimac rewarded some players with their debuts following a fruitful Indian Super League campaign. While the friendly games were not the most pleasing, there were plenty of lessons for the Indians.
Here are five things that we learnt against Oman and UAE.
5. Manvir Singh should play more matches on the trot
One of the positives for India from the friendly games has to be Manvir Singh. The ATK Mohun Bagan forward has shown that he has the quality to go toe to toe with top defenders and get the better of them on some occasions. His goal against Oman was a very well-worked goal and it shows that he has replicated his form from the Indian Super League to the national team.
He looks like a player who will only get better with more matches and he can be the striker that India has been looking for. He is crafty with the ball, can hold it up and now he has even honed his goalscoring ability which is a big bonus for the Blue Tigers. Igor Stimac should look to give Manvir more game time so that he understands his teammates better and can build chemistry to outsmart opposition defenders.
4. Lalengmawia is here to stay
Probably the biggest positive from this Dubai tour, Lalengmawia proved that he is genuinely a player who can cement his place in this Indian midfield. The Blue Tigers hardly had any possession against UAE but still, Lalengmawia showed glimpses of his class in the middle of the park. It was after his introduction against Oman when India started pushing forward and creating chances. He’s a controlling figure in the midfield and has maturity to retain possession and create chances.
Lalengmawia is still very young and has a lot to learn but his initial impressions have intrigued everyone. Therefore, it looks like he will be a player for the long haul in the midfield.
3. Igor Stimac has no idea about India’s best starting XI
In his almost two-year long stint with the Indian national team, Igor Stimac is still not sure about his best starting XI. It is great that he has rewarded several top performers from this season’s ISL and handed them debuts but the Croatian is still not sure of how he can extract the best results and also on whom he can trust to deliver in clutch situations.
Igor Stimac has not fielded an identical starting XI in consecutive matches since the beginning of his stint and it once again proves that the tactician is still not sure of his best combination. Consistency in team selection is of prime importance, as it allows the players to know more about each other’s traits and builds chemistry – which helps the team to work together during tough situations. Stimac needs to stick to a starting XI in the upcoming qualifiers.
2. India should play more International matches
The Blue Tigers were deprived of any international matches for a year, before they played against two quality teams who are better in every aspect than India. While the results were something to drive home about, still the exposure that the players received will be of great use in the future.
India needs to test themselves against the teams that are higher than them in the rankings and only then they will get better. At the moment, the Blue Tigers do not play enough international matches in a calendar year and therefore, there was hardly any communication and cohesion among the players in the match against UAE and also in the first half against Oman.
1. Have India really progressed since the 2019 AFC Asian Cup?
The Indian national team displayed a decent account of themselves at the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. They started the campaign very strongly by defeating Thailand 4-1. The Blue Tigers went toe to toe against the UAE and had their chances but it was just not their day as they lost 0-2. India had to exit the tournament after a heartbreaking loss against Bahrain in the final group stage match.
Since then, Igor Stimac has taken over the reins and has delivered some performance here and there but with zero consistency. The Blue Tigers have played against teams like Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Curacao, Oman, Thailand and UAE, winning only one match in the process.
Another notable result has to be the historic 0-0 draw against the Asian Champions Qatar away. However, draws against Bangladesh and Afghanistan have simply nullified the amazing result that Stimac’s men had against Qatar. The Blue Tigers are yet to win a match in the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers and are fourth in their group behind Qatar, Oman and Afghanistan. Also, with their current form, there are serious questions over their qualifications at the 2023 AFC Asian Cup.