There were many talking points that emerged as India’s 13-match unbeaten run came to an end in Bishkek. 

The Indian football team’s dream run of being undefeated for 13 games cames to an end as the Blue Tigers were beaten by the Kyrgyz Republic in Biskek on Tuesday night. India were already on the backfoot due to the unavailability of their captain and talisman Sunil Chhetri.

The Indian skipper missed the fixture due to a suspension and with his absence, the chances of producing a result away from home seemed bleak. Along with the players on the pitch, head coach Stephen Constantine overlooked certain factors that took India to defeat in their final AFC Asian Cup Qualifier.

Following the defeat, Khel Now takes a look at the five key takeaways from last night.

1. Lack of friendly matches ahead of a crucial qualifier

India may have qualified for the Asian Cup in 2019 but this encounter was of great significance for the Blue Tigers. A win would have made it possible to clinch a much higher FIFA ranking and an upper hand during the group stage draw for the tournament next year. The two primary domestic football tournaments (the I-League and the ISL) ended earlier in March and the federation could have arranged a friendly match to ensure a better understanding and chemistry among the players.

2. India’s propensity to start games slowly continues

The Blue Tigers have developed a particular habit of conceding early goals. In any fixture, a team requires a cetain amount of time to find and adapt to the rhythm of the game and that is what cost the Indians against the Kyrgyz Republic on Tuesday night.

The Indian defence was massively ineffective against the White Falcons as Anton Zemlianukhin made no mistake to give his side an early lead. India’s knack of conceding early and mounting comebacks later in games has made the national side suffer on many occasions. 

One such incident was against Myanmar where a similar event took place as Myanmar’s Yan Naing provided his side with a lead as early as in the first minute of the match. Although, Chhetri equalised later, Kyaw Ko Ko restored Myanmar’s lead once again. A similar string of events took place in Bishkek as well which cost the Indians a higher ranking and a potentially easier group in the AFC Asian Cup next year.

From a neutral point of view, India definitely need to work on their defensive shape early on in games because they are still not a good enough to be playing with handicaps against superior teams and doing it successfuly

3. Lack of penetration in midfield

The Men in Blue suffered a lot in the middle of the pitch against Kyrgyzstan on Tuesday evening. The midfield was in absolute shambles as both Md. Rafique and Rowlin Borges produced average displays and after a point in the game, the fact that Constantine decided to bench in-form midfielders like Anirudh Thapa and Dhanpal Ganesh made very little sense.

While Borges made the effort to thread some balls forward and augment the midfield, Rafique had a disastrous outing. Giving away possession cheaply, constantly slipping and being out of position on several occasions, the East Bengal man was all over the place, literally asking for a quick surrender to the White Falcons.

Earlier, Khel Now had criticized Constantine’s squad selection policy pointing out some similar details as well as some of the players who deserved a shot at the national camp in place of some of the players who played last night, particularly in the midfield. The Englishman messed up on many aspects, including player selection and not starting his best assets at hand against a worthy opponent such as the Kyrgyz Republic.

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Eat. Travel around the world. Select the same Indian national team. Repeat!

4. Chhetri indispensable to the team in more ways than one

Sunil Chhetri, its a special name of assurance in that Indian lineup. He adds an extra sense of belief and trust in the supporters as well as his teammates. He’s India’s leading goalscorer and the man to lead the pack. But, the positives of the Indian skipper do not end there. A born motivator of the team members especially youngsters, Chhetri is not just a goalscorer or a captain, he brings a different kind of aura with him to this Indian side. 

He’s a who elevates the performances of others around him, exemplified by Udanta Singh’s performances against Myanmar and Kyrgyzstan in contrast to that in the game last evening.

Chhetri was missed in every minute of the match and there is no second thought about it. But, the question needs to be asked does the Indian side have an able replacement for him?

5. India’s squad depth a myth

Indian football has been on the rise and especially this year a lot of talented youngsters have got proper game-time to showcase their skills. Some have made it into Constantine’s squad while the majority of these good performers missed out on making the cut. However, the buzz after the conclusion of the I-league and the ISL regarding the burgeoning talent pool of Indian players were busted after the national camp selection by Constantine.

The selection for the national camp and the probables proved the popular belief of the existence of the talent pool to be a myth. Without important players like Eugenson Lyngdoh and Chhetri, the Indian side were unable to churn out a positive result.

Both the players were badly missed as Lyngdoh brings that extra flair and creativity in the midfield. while Chhetri’s contribution is second to none. The midfield was in total shambles and while Jeje Lalpekhlua and Balwant Singh tried their best upfront, they could not match the influence of the talisman, who could have been the winning factor for the Blue Tigers.