India vs Bahrain preview: Will the dream continue?
Written by: Punit Tripathi
The Blue Tigers are in need of a result against the Reds to secure qualification to the knockout rounds of the tournament.
Effort and luck do not go hand-in-hand every time and Indian fans would be feeling the same after the 2-0 loss against the United Arab Emirates in their second encounter of the AFC Asian Cup 2019. After defeating Thailand 1-4 in the opening match on January 06, India will take on Bahrain in their make-or-break game on January 14 at the Al-Sharjah Stadium.
roup A is well-poised at the moment, with Bahrain sitting at the bottom of the table, drawing 1-1 against the UAE on the opening day of the tournament and losing 1-0 to Thailand. The Middle-Eastern nation have not been prolific in attack, but have managed to hold their opposition at bay for major parts of both games.
India, on the other hand, have been inspired by a mercurial Sunil Chhetri, a newly-moulded Ashique Kuruniyan, a sensibly-fast Udanta Singh and a technically sound Anirudh Thapa. Most of the other players have also played their roles to perfection. Standing second in the table, India will easily go through if they draw their game against Bahrain and the UAE defeat Thailand, but manager Stephen Constantine has time and again stated that his team will go out to win.
India have been one of the brightest underdogs of the tournament, upsetting Thailand and posing one of the bigger challenges to the hosts. With a bit of luck and better finishing, they would’ve finished the last game 5-2, but at the end, the scoreline matters and that went to the hosts.
About The Teams
The Blue Tigers have displayed a brand of football anonymous to them under Englishman Constantine, but the flair that this team has shown has earned them massive respect amongst the continental sides. India can be expected to start as favourites against Bahrain, after some strong outings against China, Oman, and recently Thailand and the UAE.
Watch: India need to replicate their performance against Thailand to get a win against Bahrain
Coach Constantine has managed to apply the right balance of youth and experience, with talisman Chhetri finally getting the captain’s armband after much drama. Centre-back Anas Edathodika was criticized for some mistakes in the last game, one even leading to a goal for the hosts and the Kerala man would want to put that behind him in the final group game.
Chhetri would be tying his shooting laces again, having missed three goalscoring opportunities in the last encounter. The system seems to be working just fine for India at the moment and chances of it being tinkered with are low.
History, meanwhile, is on Bahrain’s side. The team have defeated India on four occasions out of five meetings, earning the bragging rights. The other encounter ended in a draw. Bahrain had toppled India 5-2 in the group stages of the AFC Asian Cup 2011, the last time these two sides met.
Watch: Bahrain lost to Thailand in their last Group A game
Bahrain, inarguably, are the second strongest side in the group, but have failed to deliver the goods going forward over the last two games. Under Czech coach Miroslav Soukup, they play a balanced game, depending on their #10 to inspire most of the creativity.
28-year-old Mohamed Al-Romaihi will look to get on the scoresheet for Bahrain, having garnered eight goals in 17 appearances for the senior side. Romaihi hasn’t inspired a lot with his finishing in the tournament and would like to put his best foot forward in the last game against India, if Bahrain are to move forward.
Changes shouldn’t be expected in the Indian XI, except one, which looks unlikely on paper. The way this side have played their football against more-fancied opponents has been a pleasure to watch and #11 Chhetri has rallied the youngsters around him well. Kuruniyan, in the hole or as a false 9, has been a revelation and his pulling defenders out of position has helped his captain a lot.
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu is set to start under the bar. Edathodika, with the help of Sandesh Jhingan, will man his goal centrally, while Pritam Kotal and Subhasish Bose will continue in their full-back roles. Thapa looks to be improving every game and the way he set up Chhetri’s header in the last game shows why he’s made it to the Indian XI at such an early age.
Pronay Halder has also played his defensive midfield role to perfection, but the ATK midfielder can do better at long passes. Holicharan Narzary and Udanta are riding on the trust shown by their manager and have time and again put in hard shifts for their side.
The opposition, too, will most likely opt for the 4-2-3-1 formation.
Stephen Constantine (India)
“We have to pick ourselves up and get ready for the next game. We need to aim for a win and get something from that game. Hopefully, we can get the result to qualify,” Constantine stated.
To read more what the India coach had to say ahead of the game, click here.
Sunil Chhetri (India)
“We are still in the running. We are ready to face Bahrain. As a team, we are united. We are ready to fight. That's our gameplan against Bahrain,” Chhetri said.
Sandhu (GK), Kotal, Jhingan, Edathodika, Bose, Thapa, Halder, Udanta, Kuruniyan, Narzary, Chhetri ©.
Hashem (GK), Issa, Shamsan, Hayam, Juma, Al Safi, Al Aswad, Madan, Marhoon, Saeed, Romaihi.
What To Expect
An Indian victory. The Blue Tigers will go all guns blazing, expecting to earn back the momentum for he later stages of the tournament, if they qualify for the same. The inverted wingers of Bahrain will give a difficult time to the Indian defenders and up top, a lot of the work will be expected to be done by Chhetri himself.
The game will be telecast in six languages in India on Star Sports 2, Star Sports 2 HD, Star Sports 3, Star Sports 1 Hindi, Star Sports 1 HD Hindi, Star Sports 1 Tamil, Star Sports 1 Kannada, along with Hotstar from 9:30 PM on Monday evening.
Published: Sun Jan 13, 2019 06:23 PM IST