The tournament will begin in Mumbai tomorrow and marks the start of the Blue Tigers’ preparations for the Asian Cup 2019.
The Intercontinental Cup in its inaugural edition will see a lot of excitement, with Kenya, Chinese Taipei and New Zealand participating alongside hosts India. After the AIFF’s promise failed last year, culminating in a three-team tournament named the Hero Tri-series, Indian football’s governing body ensured that the hosts get fair competition and fans get to see four teams from different continents participate.
With the AFC Asia Cup 2019 looming large on the Blue Tigers, the tournament attains greater importance. This is one of the most important preparatory competitions for the home team, keeping an eye on the quality of opposition involved. With New Zealand and Kenya regularly knocking FIFA World Cup doors or pushing for slots from their respective continents.
Stephen Constantine has announced a 30-man squad that is currently training in Mumbai. The matches are set to be held in the metropolis, allowing the team a lot of time to acclimatise to the environment and also shed the off-season lingerings. The camp started on May 16. Here, we take a look at how the Indian team may lineup in the Cup.
This could be one of India’s starting lineups in the Intercontinental Cup
With another season gone without any major error, the stake of former Norway-based shot-stopper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu has risen. The Bengaluru FC custodian was confident in his box and vocal in his defensive communication as the Blues cruised to their first ever Indian Super Cup title. Constantine likes tall men all over the pitch and it starts at the base, with GSS certainly set to start.
Anas Edathodika and Sandesh Jhingan will continue to start at the heart of the defence. Both players have consistently talked about the way they get along together, both on and off the pitch and it has been a big positive for the Blue Tigers in recent games.
In the full-back positions, Narayan Das and Pritam Kotal are expected to be given the nod. These two have been given the manager’s trust and have responded with average performances day-in, day-out. Jerry Lalrinzuala has been knocking on the left-back berth for some time now, but is expected to play a fringe role after Das’ strong outings with FC Goa in the Indian Super League (ISL) season.
This bracket can be classified into two – the defensive and the offensive. In the defensive midfield role, Rowlin Borges and Pronay Halder are expected to be given starting roles, but East Bengal midfielder Md. Rafique can be accorded a look-in. Rafique has been a long time understudy to Eugeneson Lyngdoh in the side and in the veteran’s absence, could be asked to play the role of the transitioner.
The left-wing position is almost tailor-made for Holicharan Narzary, given his penchant for hard-work and the cover he provides to Das on the left side. Bikash Jairu and Ashique Kuruniyan will be looking to play bit-part roles later in the games.
On the right, Udanta Singh has certainly made a massive claim, having played an effective role at Bengaluru FC this season. The youngster has been looking to make the spot his own from the tenacious Jackichand Singh and this tournament could see the evolution happen at the international scene. Udanta has been in fine form and if he can replicate that, fans would not miss Jackichand’s indistry on the right.
This spots easily go to the duo of Jeje Lalpekhlua and Sunil Chhetri, with Balwant Singh coming on late. In a 4-4-2, one of the strikers is expected to run off defenders, be good at heading while the other needs to have experience and be clinical at finishing. These two veterans fit the bill and Constantine will expect his war-hero Chhetri to continue his magical touch in front of goal.
This could be a backup plan for Constantine in the Intercontinental Cup
Positionally, Lalrinzuala is expected to have the best chance of starting, inn the left back position. The Chennaiyin FC youngster has been terrific for over two seasons now and that hasn’t gone unnoticed at the Indian camp. Anirudh Thapa, too, will come into the reckoning, replacing Rafique if the East Bengal midfielder fails to produce on a consustent basis.
Formationally, Chhetri could also be expected to play a left-wing role in the 4-4-2 if Constantine goes on the offensive, with Narzary being replaced by Balwant, who’d form a duo with Lalpekhlua up top. This scenario comes into play when India need goals and Constantine wants his lads to go on all-out attack. Chhetri has played the role in the past and with both Singh and Lalpekhlua on song, India may look at this formation to unsettle opposition defences.
The Indian head coach Stephen Constantine seemed optimistic about the Blue Tigers’ chances at the Intercontinental Cup. The Englishman dubbed this tournament as a preparatory and learning phase for the Blues, who will have similar competition at the AFC Asian Cup next year.
Here is what he said: Whoever they will bring will be tough competition- Stephen Constantine
Meanwhile, among the recent problems regarding the Harambe Stars and Kenya head coach Sebastian Migne, assistant coach Francis Kimanzi represented the Africans on Thursday in a press conference. New Zealand’s Fritz Schmid and Chinese Taipei’s Gary White also accompanied the former in the press conference to talk about their respective squads in the Intercontinental Cup.
Here is what they said: Kenya, Chinese Taipei & New Zealand coaches explain inexperienced squads in Intercontinental Cup
India will lineup in a 4-4-2 or a 4-2-2-2 formation, with the defence and the central midfield remaining the same. Udanta and Narzary will be expected to play as pure wingers in the second formation, with Chhetri slotting in as the second striker.
India will play Chinese Taipei on June 1, Kenya on June 4 and New Zealand on June 7. Set in a league format, the points table will decide the finalists, that will play the decider on June 10.
The Star Network will broadcast the tournament live. The matches will be simulcast on TV and Hotstar.
The Indian 23-man squad for the Intercontinental Cup was announced at 11:40 on Thursday night. Here is the list of the squad.
GOALKEEPERS: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Amrinder Singh, Vishal Kaith.
DEFENDERS: Pritam Kotal, Anas Edathodika, Salam Ranjan Singh, Sandesh Jhingan, Lalruatthara, Narayan Das, Jerry Lalrinzuala, Subhasish Bose.
MIDFIELDERS: Udanta Singh, Ashique Kuruniyan, Rowllin Borges, Anirudh Thapa, Pronay Halder, Md. Rafique, Halicharan Narzary, Laldanmawia Ralte.
FORWARDS: Sunil Chhetri, Jeje Lalpekhlua, Balwant Singh, Alen Deory.