News Article

India take on China in their most high-profile encounter in two years

Written by: Punit Tripathi

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The Blue Tigers are facing the Dragons for the first time since the 1997 Nehru Cup.

An Indian international was dropped from the squad that travelled to China to participate in a friendly over passport issues. The fateful player was forward Balwant Singh, and manager Stephen Constantine will hope Jeje Lalpekhlua, Sumeet Passi and Farukh Chaudhary fire enough to muster something against the mammoth Chinese side.

The match, to be played on October 13, will be the 17th encounter between the two South Asian power-centres, sans football. India have failed to defeat Team Dragon in 17 attempts, losing 12 times. China, meanwhile, won the last game against India in 1997, a 2-1 win in Nehru Cup. 2006 World Cup winning manager Marcelo Lippi will hope to continue the trend.

The team reached Beijing on Wednesday, and manager Constantine said that the friendly against will be an indicator of the team's progress ahead of next year's AFC Asian Cup. The match will be played at the Suzhou City Centre Olympic Stadium in Suzhou City.

About The Teams

India

India, depleted without the services of Balwant and injured midfielder Dhanpal Ganesh, will look to do what it takes to beat the Chinese side that is easily reckoned the best side in the region. Under Constantine, India have won seven of their last 10 games, but disappointingly lost the SAFF Cup final in Bangladesh on September 15.

Captain Sunil Chhetri has been on a fine run of form for the national team and his displays for Bengaluru FC in the Indian Super League bode well for the side. The 34-year-old keeps turning back the clock and his presence on the pitch is key to India’s slim hopes in this encounter.

India's probable squad against China

Young midfielder Anirudh Thapa has grown by leaps and bounds in the last six months, playing regularly for the national team at the U-23 and senior level. He can be expected to anchor the side’s midfield alongside the ever-so-reliable Pronay Halder, but if Constantine tries out a defensive style, Rowlin Borges can also be expected to start.

At the back, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu is certain to man the goalpost. Subhashish Bose was India’s success story at the Intercontinental Cup and the curve didn’t turn during the 2018 SAFF Cup last month. Bose is expected to start at left-back, with Anas Edathodika and Sandesh Jhingan continuing as centre-backs. Pritam Kotal will fill the right-back position.  

In attack, Udanta Singh and Holicharan Narzary are expected to play as right and left wingers respectively, to support the front pair of Jeje Lalpekhlua, with Chhetri operating just behind him. The formation is likely to be 4-4-1-1, with the quadrants expected to sit deep and defend. The wingers, Chhetri and Lalpekhlua can be expected to break at every opportunity to counter.

Sandesh Jhingan will wear the armband for India in China. Handing over the duties to him, Coach Stephen Constantine said, "I think the captain has to reflect the attitude of the coach. Sandesh first played for me four years ago. He is a fighter and a leader. He gives everything on the pitch which most of the players do.”

China

China have recently played European heavyweights like Wales and the Czech Republic

China, on the other hand, recently played Wales and the Czech Republic, losing 6-0 and 4-1 respectively, but gaining massive European experience. The team also played Asian giants Qatar and Bahrain recently, losing the first and drawing the second. The team will look at Wu Lei to continue scoring, having been on the scoresheet three times in the last six appearances.

The side is expected to play either a 4-3-3 or a 4-4-2 formation, with its Italian manager always a lawyer aligned to attack. China will hold on to the ball and will look to find holes in the usually-compact Indian defence, making the match clearly a defence-Vs-attack situation.

Coaches Corner

Marcello Lippi (China)

Indian football has witnessed a rapid development in recent years and we cannot ignore their effort and strength. As a result, we, of course, need to give great importance to them for tomorrow's match.

We have to confront them as a team. I can't separate whether we need to put extra focus on any particular department of the Indian team.

Instead of keeping an extra eye on opponent key players, I would rather focus more on my own team's strengths

Stephen Constantine (India)

The conditions are ideal and it's going to be a crucial game for us before the Asian Cup. It’s really going to be a great football contest for all of us and the entire team is looking forward to it.

I would like to thank the Chinese Federation for their hospitality and warm reception that we have got since we have landed here. We have trained on it and the pitch is in super condition. We are all now looking forward to the match.

We have a very good scouting system in India and we have found players which others couldn't scout. I always look for the young players. Yes, we can't substitute experience with the youngsters’ love for the game but we are trying to make a mix.

The U23 team has performed quite well recently and it can be the perfect opportunity for them. Playing against China in the fantastic stadium would be a lesson for everyone.


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Players' Corner

Yu Dabao (China)

I will play forward for the national team as the coach hopes that I could get into the role as soon as possible. Of course, being in this position means more pressure since people put more expectations on you to score. What I can say is that I will try my best in every opportunity to get a good result. (CGTN)

Sunil Chhetri (India)

Watch: Chhetri has been India's most prolific player recently

I’m happy that we are playing a team like China. It’s strange that we are playing them after so long. We should have played them more often. I’m very excited because they are a quality opponent and have always been a respected side in Asia.

To face them at their home is going to be a tough challenge, but this is a challenge that we should face now. Our form away from home hasn’t been particularly very good. This is a great opportunity for us to give a good account of ourselves.

Anas Edathodika (India)

It'll be a tremendously tough job for us against China, that too in an away match. But, winning isn’t impossible. We had a 13-match unbeaten streak including nine wins recently and that is a perfect testament to the team's hard work.

Sandesh Jhingan (India)

They have just played Bahrain who are in our group in the Asian Cup. So, we are looking forward to it in preparation for the Asian Cup. They are one of the big teams in Asia and you need to play against big teams, so that you get to see yourself and improve from there.

Probable Lineups

India: Sandhu, Bose, Edathodika, Jhingan, Kotal, Halder, Thapa, Narzary, Udanta, Chhetri, Jeje.

China: Junling, Linpeng, Yang, Xuepeng, Xuri, Zheng, Zhang, Lei, Yang, Chengdong, Dabao.

Indian fans can cheer for their team in their favourite language as the game will be broadcast in English, Hindi and Tamil across the Star Sports network, Hotstar and Jio TV.

What To Expect

A match of Chinese speed and creativity against India’s defensive discipline and resoluteness. The Blue Tigers will also expect to make most of the scant opportunities they’re expected to get, making most of the high-profile tie. The match will start at 5:05 PM IST and will be telecast on the Star Network. India haven’t won against China ever in the history of the game, but what’s history in football?

Published: Fri Oct 12, 2018 10:26 PM IST

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