Igor Stimac failed to get most of his ideas right on Tuesday night.

India fired blanks and sixes against Bangladesh in a 1-1 draw at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata on Tuesday night. The hosts were saved from a massive disappointment by the double-heroics of Adil Khan, who made a acrobatic goal-line clearance and also scored the equalizer late into the game. Indian head coach Igor Stimac got his ideas wrong, and his Bangladeshi counterpart Jamie Day was spot-on, as the Bengal Tigers earned a crucial point in the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers.

Had India looked at the Bangladesh-Qatar game closely, they would’ve noticed that the young defence that they were about to face was fast, sturdy and was good at dealing with crosses. The team sat back in unison for most of the encounter, covering the lines well. And it would’ve taken their best playmaker, Brandon Fernandes, to break these lines. Khel Now had categorically talked about the same in our preview, stating that India needed to play through central lines and a crowded midfield with Chhetri-Brandon-Sahal linking as the best option.

But, things weren’t to be. After the magnanimous goalless draw against AFC Asian Cup champions Qatar away, all eyes were on the Indian team going forward into qualification. However, this encounter was a dull memory of the times when India regularly flattered to deceive and Khan’s late equalizer should ideally be treated as mere consolation.

What Went Wrong?

Let’s move on to the tactics. Sahal Abdul Samad and Anirudh Thapa started in the midfield pivot in a 4-2-3-1 setting, with captain Sunil Chhetri employed in the No. 10 role. With the passage of time, Thapa became the lone central midfielder and Sahal moved to the right central midfield role, closer to Udanta Singh. This left Ashique Kuruniyan a little too deserted down the left channel, as the Bangladesh wingers and midfielders had cut out the passing channels well. This had an immense effect on India’s attack and Ashique’s confidence looked battered by the end of the 90.

Chhetri, too, did not get enough space whenever he faced the goal. The centre-backs and opposition captain Jamal Bhuyan deserve credit for this. Manvir Singh, India’s No. 9, had a fair outing. He managed to put many aerial balls in India’s favour, but the main thing a striker should do is shoot, which he isn’t doing enough at the moment. He got two half-chances and fluffed both. Indian forwards, sans Chhetri, should be shooting more and better.

India Vs Bangladesh Highlights

Did India Miss Amarjit Singh Kiyam against Bangladesh?

Amidst all the caterwaul about India’s new possession-based approach to the beautiful game, Stimac needs to find a way to make it more palpable and useful. Rahul Bheke and Mandar Rao Dessai made most of their passes back to the centre-backs, wasting dire time when India were trailing. This is also due to the unavailability of a proper No. 5 in the team. Playing Thapa as a defensive midfielder curbs his natural instincts – he positionally restricts himself and rightly so – to contribute to the attack and it showed how it can take a toll on his passing. This is exactly where Amarjit Singh Kiyam becomes priceless.

Does Udanta Singh Need To Alter His Style?

Udanta is trying to mainstream the right wing play a little too often and has too few options in his repertoire to point out. He may have tremendous speed on and off the ball, but all he can really do is put a great ball into the box and hope someone gets on the end of it. He is inarguably one of the better talents in Indian football at the moment and needs to alter his game accordingly, and move closer to the goal to have more effect, or maybe even switch wings and try being an inverted winger and try diagonal crosses when Manvir is in the box as a target man.

Anas Edathodika may have returned to match fitness, but his long balls prove that he has been out of touch from the top level for a long time now. Edathodika also needs more time to settle into the Stimac system, but was otherwise okay, defensively. He had some good headers to show for his place in the side.

FIFA World Cup 2022: India Vs Bangladesh Tactical Review

India became more direct in the second half and started attacking centrally. The infusion of Brandon Fernandes saw a lot of through passes, a lot of close touches around the box that led to numerous chances. The No. 10 eventually got an assist to his name when his delicious delivery from the corner flag was strongly headed in by Adil.

India did not read their opposition well, but its opposition did their homework well. Khel Now in its preview had picked out Saad Uddin and Brandon as the players to watch out for, and it seems we were not too far from the truth. Saad got the goal, and India’s No. 10 assisted. Also, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu needs to bury his Salt Lake Stadium ghosts in the past. He was unbeatable in the last game against Qatar, and today, he looked like an average goalkeeper making basic positional errors. A lot of fans were reminded of his East Bengal days.

Did complacency creep in, knowing that the technical quality of the squad was better than the Opposition’s? We’ll let you ponder on that thought.