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Confident India look to seal knockout stages berth against Indonesia

Written by: Uttiyo Sarkar

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The Blue Colts need a draw at least to qualify for the knockout stages.

India took a big step forward into qualifying for the quarter-finals of the 2018 AFC U-16 Championship with a hard-fought draw against Iran. For the first time in 33 years, the Indian national team held the Asian powerhouse (in official matches). The last time, it happened was on December 7, 1984 in the Asia Cup Finals in Singapore. But the real test stands in the way in their final group stage match against group-leaders Indonesia, who are a much more daunting opposition than Iran. Indonesia are the current favorites to win the group, but India have proved themselves to be no push-overs with some bright performances.

Bibiano Fernandes’ boys displayed a fearless performance against Iran and were motivated even more by Niraj Kumar’s heroics. While the Blue Colts would have been disappointed not to finish off those last chances and attain a famous win, that point was enough to keep India in the top two. The Blue Colts are one step into qualifying for the knockout rounds of the AFC U-16 Championship for the first time in their history. But they will need to wither the storm against Indonesia and past this difficult final hurdle to earn the reward for all their hard work.

About The Teams

India

India have shown a lot of tenacity in the AFC U-16 Championship so far and continued their admirable work against Iran. While they had to be bailed out by Niraj Kumar at times, India capitalized on Iran’s mistakes and were clever in hurting them exactly where it mattered. Despite terrorizing counter-attacks, his side’s poor finishing let down Bibiano Fernandes on the day. He has insisted on practising hard to fill that void, but India can not afford to miss even a single chance against gritty Indonesia.

India probable lineup against Indonesia

The AFC U-16 Champions will make it extremely difficult for them to move through the wings or create anything. Vikram Pratap Singh, who has been excellent this tournament till now, is expected to be under observation. But India have had their own sense of unpredictability throughout this tournament and will look to capitalize on Indonesia’s lapses of concentration. Another draw against a thriving national side like Indonesia could be sweet, but a win will not only help India qualify for the quarter-finals but top the group as well.

Watch: Vietnam 0-1 India

India are expected to retain their 4-3-3 formation, with Givson Singh, Ricky Shabong and Bekey Oram comprising the midfield three. Vikram Pratap Singh and Ravi Rana will attack through the wings, while it is evident that Ridge D'Mello has to up his game against Indonesia. India might be missing the services of Rohit Danu (who is not eligible for the tournament), but Vikram Pratap’s sting and fluidity in midfield will be key to India’s chances of winning. The Blue Colts need to retain their confidence and continue digging deep to keep out opponents attacks, but keeping expectations on the back of their minds could make for a downfall.

Regarding his team, coach Bibiano Fernandes quipped, "This team (India U-16s) possess a lot of quality and it is only a matter of time before everyone takes notice of us."

Indonesia

Indonesia might have been held by Vietnam on the other day, but lady luck definitely favored The Golden Dragons on the day. Indonesia have been the dominant team of the group so far and displayed an attractive brand of football to prove it. But they have not been the most sturdy team defensively and often invite pressure because of defensive lapses. But with a terrific goalkeeper in Ernando Sutaryadi guarding their goal, it will take something truly special for India to score past Young Garuda.

Indonesia are the current favorites to top the group

Indonesia have a terrorizing attack who have haunted both Iran and Vietnam, with their movement especially through the left-wing being impossible to contain. India and Shabas Ahammed have to be especially careful defending against Indonesia, who love to move through the left side. Their attackers Amiruddin Bagus and Sutan Zico have got a dangerous blend of strength and skill, which allows them to bully and breeze past defenders to score goals.

Indonesia opts to play with a lone striker and a packed midfield and seemed to employ a 4-2-3-1 formation against Vietnam. But their wingers have proven to be extremely dangerous, as they also employ a defensive midfield to cover up the ground for their attacking full-backs. Indonesia will not hold back in attacking against what is expected to be a defensive India and will throw the kitchen sink if needed to get all three points.


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Venue

The Bukit Jali National stadium will play the host for India’s final match in the AFC U-16 Championship group stages. The stadium is one of the biggest in Malaysia and has the capacity of almost 87,411 people. Indonesia’s match against Vietnam gathered a whopping attendance of 11,201 the other day, which is the highest recorded for any match in the AFC u-16 Championship so far. The Indonesian faith and will definitely pack the stadium to see their team take on India and will make things difficult for the young colts.

What To Expect

Indonesia will retain their attacking brand of football against India, who will look to catch Young Garuda on the counter-attack. The Blue Colts need to finish off any chances they get if they’re to pull off a surprise victory and need to retain their energy for the last minutes. This will be an interesting midfield battle because of how both teams like to stack things in the middle of the park, but most chances could be created through the wings. In the end, mental strength will prevail and if India can hold their own like the other matches, there’s an outside chance for an upset.

Ahead of the fixture, coach Bibiano Fernandes has stated, "We always play for a win and we will do so against Indonesia as well. We know how the group stands and it would be favourable for us if we get the win and see ourselves through. We do not want to rely on other teams to do the job for us. But it’s not easy, Indonesia are an efficient team in attack and have swift forwards who bank on their pacy counter-attacks. We would have to be on our level best if we are to get the better of them."

Also, the match's live commentary will be available on Khel Now.

Published: Wed Sep 26, 2018 04:19 PM IST

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