The Blue Tigers failed to win a game in the friendly tournament.

The ongoing international break came with many promises for the Indian football team as it participated in an international friendly tournament in Vietnam. It was the team’s first project after the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers held in June. India went to Vietnam after three back-to-back wins in the aforementioned event. Before leaving for Vietnam, India’s head coach Igor Stimac seemed confident of his team leaving its mark in the tournament and even winning it.

However, after the completion of the tournament, Indian fans are left disappointed, yet again. The team did not win a single match and suffered a crushing defeat in the final match of the competition. It drew with lower-ranked Singapore in the first game and lost to Vietnam 3-0 in the second outing. On that note, let’s take a look at the key things that we learned from India’s performance in the competition.

4. Chhangte deserves more game time

One of the most prominent things that caught the attention of football pundits across the country is the absence of Lallianzuala Chhangte from India’s playing XI. Chhangte was perhaps the most in-form player in the team with seven goals to his name in the recently concluded Durand Cup. Yet, he didn’t start any match. He hardly got 30 minutes over two matches.

Lallianzuala Chhangte won the Golden Boot in Durand Cup 2022. (Courtesy: MCFC Media)

Surprisingly, Udanta Singh began the match against Vietnam on the right flank. Given his recent form and ISL performances, many would consider it a wrong move to choose him over Chhangte. India’s lack of accuracy on the right flank was evident during Udanta’s presence. However, the scenario might have been different if Chhangte was given the nod from the beginning.

3. India urgently needs an established defensive midfielder

Indian midfield lacked composure in both the matches of the tournament. It evidently lacked a proper defensive midfielder who would provide stability to the side. Jeakson Singh was given this responsibility in both the fixtures. However, he was not able to fulfil the requirements. Spells of his game proved to be good for the team, but he lacked consistency and composure.

For the upcoming AFC Asian Cup, India needs to address this issue and ensure that the base of midfield is in the right hands. It would be interesting to see how Apuia might play in this role for the country in the future.

2. Indian defence needs proper shape and stability

The highlight of India’s failure in the tournament, and particularly in the second match, was its defence. The match against Vietnam turned out to be a nightmare for the side as it conceded three goals due to avoidable errors. The two matches saw India field six different defenders. Clearly, apart from Sandesh Jhingan, none of the other positions had an established face in the competition.

There is confusion regarding the full-backs as well. Moreover, who would pair Jhingan in central defence is also not clear. As a result, the Indian defence suffered from a lack of coordination and cohesion in both games, which Vietnam was able to capitalize upon. Stimac needs to address this point with urgency before leaving for Asian Cup next year.

1. Ashique Kuruniyan’s emergence as a viable attacking threat

Ashique Kuruniyan against Singapore. (Courtesy: AIFF Media)

One of the silver linings for India in the friendly tournament was Ashique Kuruniyan‘s performance in the attacking third. He scored the only goal for India in the tournament. Ashique tried his best in front of the opposition’s goals and was one of the few good performers of the side. He made strong forward runs, took shots, made passes, and constantly tried to threaten opposition defenders.

Notably, Ashique played ably alongside Sunil Chhetri. However, a lack of support from the midfield meant that his efforts were not good enough to change the fortunes of the team. Yet, a major positive takeaway from the competition is Ashique’s continuation of the attacking prowess that he had shown in the qualifiers.

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