The Blue Tigers will put themselves in pole position to qualify for the AFC Asian Cup in 2019 with success in Southeast Asia.

The Indian national team is set to play its third AFC Asian Cup qualifier on 5th September at Macau. The Blue Tigers have been in smooth touch recently, having gone on an unbeaten run of 9 games, winning 8 of them. In the last two matches, India defeated Mauritius 2-1 and drew with St. Kitts and Nevis 1-1 in the recently concluded Tri-Nations Series, with India lifting the trophy in its first installment.

Coming back to the AFC Asian Cup, India has played two AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers so far, winning both of them 1-0. The Stephen Constantine-managed team defeated Myanmar 1-0 away on 28th March and more recently, Kyrgyz Republic on 13th June. Talisman and captain Sunil Chhetri scored both vital goals for the Men in Blue and was provided by Udanta Kumam and Jeje Lalpekhlua on respective occasions.

The game is set to take place at the Estadio Campo Desportive, also known as the Macau Olympic Complex. The hosts are ranked 183 in the current FIFA rankings, but India will be at peril if they take their opponents lightly. The team were the runners up at the 2016 AFC Solidarity Cup and are known to be party spoilers for several Asian sides. This year hasn’t really been theirs, though.

Macau is still looking for their first victory in 2017 after having lost to Kyrgyzstan and Myanmar 1-0 and 4-0 respectively. The Greens were set to play an international friendly against Malaysia on 25th August, but it was canceled due to unforeseen circumstances.  However, they were thrashed 4-0 by neighbouring Hong-Kong in a friendly on Saturday.

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Indian Playing XI

With Stephen Constantine announcing the 23-man squad on Thursday, it is pretty clear that the Indian football fans will not be witnessing any surprises against Macau. Football’s greatest managers have always believed in tinkering less with their defensive shape and players when they’re delivering the goods, and that seems to be the case with the Englishman as well.

Having been good if not great, the pair of Anas Edathodika and Sandesh Jhingan look to have made the centre-back spot their own. Pritam Kotal and Narayan Das are always up for the challenge and the four, together, have looked to be in sync with the manager’s ideas. Returning after AFC Cup commitments, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu is set to make his way straight to the bar, providing his massive presence and composure to the side.

In the center of the pitch, Mohd. Rafique will be hoping to make it to the first XI sooner than later, but Constantine will be expected to start with Eugeneson Lyngdoh and Rowlin Borges in the heart of the midfield. On the wings, Indian ‘flash’ Udanta Kumam is set to make the right wing his own, or the experience of Jackichand Singh might be expected to control proceedings at the beginning. Captain and talisman Chhetri would be expected to start on the left.

Up ahead, Jeje Lalpekhlua, Robin Singh and Balwant Singh are all expected to play a role. A pair of either of these three players could be asked to start, with the third player coming off the bench in the second half. Khel Now understands that the pair of Balwant and Lalpekhlua will be given the nod ahead of Robin Singh, who will be expected to make an impact coming on when the opposition defense gets tired.

The System

In the away fixture, India is set to sit back and defend, with both Lyngdoh and Borges sitting pretty deep on the pitch and the creative workload falling on the pair Chhetri and Udanta. Balwant, if he starts, will also be expected to play the first line of defense and press opposition defenders to create that little extra space for his attacking teammate Lalpekhlua.

India’s likely formations against Macau

The team is set to start with a 4-4-2 system, which will change to 4-1-3-2 whenever India attack. Kotal and Das will not be expected to make too many attacking runs, as it might lead to opening up space behind the back four. With Udanta and Chhetri around, a lot of creativity can be expected, which was missing with Holicharan Narzary and Jackichand in the last two games. Lyngdoh and Borges can both be expected to inter-change the role of screening in front of the defense throughout the game whenever India push the opposition.

Up top, Lalpekhlua and Robin, whoever starts, will be expected to add the power and presence in the box. If Balwant is dropped to the bench, Lalpekhlua will be expected to play off Robin and provide the link-up play option to the likes of Chhetri, Lyngdoh and Borges. Chhetri will also be expected to narrow down the width from the left and will constantly come central to help the team’s game-play. The captain and his heir apparent, Udanta, are no pushovers defensively and Das and Kotal will definitely have a lot to smile about.

India vs Macau: Preview (The Corner by Sourav Bose)

Alternatively, India can play a 4-3-3 in the midfield, with Rowlin Borges as the screen in front of the defense and Lyngdoh and Rafique taking the roles of left central midfielder and right central midfielder respectively. This will add a lot of depth in the middle and will allow more possession to the Blue Tigers. Chhetri and Udanta will then be expected to start on the wings, with Robin/Lalpekhlua up top. Defensively, the shape will change to a 4-5-1, with Robin left in the opposition half.


The game will be Live on the Star Sports Network from 5 pm on Tuesday evening. You can also catch live streaming of the match on the Hotstar app or you can follow the fastest live commentary on Khel Now.