News Article

Three changes India must make to win against Myanmar in AFC qualifier

Written by: Punit Tripathi


Tactical errors, wrong team selections and abysmal preparations. A look what the Blue Tigers got wrong in their 3-2 victory on Wednesday evening. . .

The Indian national team defeated Cambodia 3-2 at a chock-a-block Phnom Penh Stadium in Cambodia. The Blue Tigers were slow off the blocks and were completely outplayed in the first half. A resurgence in the second saw the team scoring two goals and winning the game. Sunil Chhetri and Khuon Laboravy had scored in the first half to take their teams down the tunnel 1-1.

Two words were synonymous of India’s display on Wednesday evening – rusty and uninventive. Playing a 4-4-2 which later changed to 4-5-1 as Daniel played much behind the sole striker Robin Singh, India looked to have got it all wrong from the word go. There was absolutely no impetus in keeping the ball and the gameplay lacked any incisiveness.

Also Read: India 3-2 Cambodia - Match Report and Highlights

These are the three points we learned from the game:

1. Tactical Mistakes: If your manager makes his first substitution in the 36th minute and the game gets better thereafter, it is no rocket-science to understand that the team began with a tactical mistake. India strung their first few passes in the 26th minute, such was the poor display of the side ranked 38 notches higher than the hosts.

Pushing your best player to the left wing and playing your most creative midfielder deeper on the pitch would never do wonders for the national team. India need to play with Robin Singh up top, but Sunil Chhetri needs to be more central and higher up the pitch than a technical winger in a 4-4-2.

Sunil Chhetri can win matches on his own but needs a more central role, suiting his game-play

The former captain got more involved in the second half and it was clearly visible how important his participation is in the scheme of things for the Blue Tigers. Both Anas Edathodika and Sandesh Jhingan are equally adept at throwing their bodies in line as well as comfortable on the ball. This should work as a wake-up call for the manager and ensure these two players form an integral part of the backline in the years to come.

2. Wrong Formation: Khel Now has, in the past, said that the most suited formation to this set of players is a 4-3-3. We will now elaborate on why. With Pritam Kotal and Narayan Das/Fulganco Cardozo, India have fast and clearly powerful full-backs who can run up and down the pitch with aplomb. Kotal and Das are both fine crossers of the ball too, which gives India another attacking initiative. Ball playing defenders Edathodika and Jhingan can always carry the ball and don’t run away from a pass, seen from their ISL days where they led their respective backlines at times.

In the midfield, Rowlin Borges can be seen as the screen sitting above the defence, and a lot of passing should not be expected out of him. Milan Singh has been an absolute revelation over the last one year and he deserves his place on the right side of the midfield three. Eugeneson, our creative lynchpin, will be comfortable on the left as when provided space, the former Shillong Lajong man can bomb forward and take potshots at goal.


This image shows the formation and the areas of action and passing on the pitch. Shows the cohesiveness and closeness of Chhetri and Lyngdoh clearly, which is key for India's better performances  ©

At the top, Sunil Chhetri plays on the left, close to Lyngdoh. Their understanding has seen them take Bengaluru FC to heights never-seen-before in Indian football and the national team manager must give them this license to thrive. On the right, hard-working winger CK Vineeth can come in and also join Robin Singh in the box whenever wing-play happens given his good height and aerial ability.

Robin Singh should be a little faster on the pitch and should take a leaf out of Chhetri’s book, who still looks drop-dead fit at 32. Jackichand can always come in the place of Vineeth, but that will need Chhetri to come into the box and join Robin to share the heading duties.Defensively, the shape remains almost the same.

While the whole team comes down as a unit, Milan Singh must be given the added responsibility of putting in the hard yards and winning the ball higher up the pitch, something he did with ease at Delhi Dynamos and was hugely successful. Pritam and the left-back must ensure a lower number of mistakes and more composure, as that will make the defence look weak even with two fairly good centre-backs.

Also Read: India vs Cambodia - Full Match highlights and Live Commentary

3. Preparing according to the opposition: A team with an average height of 5’7” outran us on their home ground because of a rigid, unforgiving man. Stephen Constantine looks moody and rigid at times, looking like a hard task-maker who teaches you from outside the syllabus of the examination you’re sitting in.

When a team is certain to play the ball on the ground and play it out fast, does it make any sense to try and sit deep and allow them space even when we do not play Jurgen Klopp’s Gegenpressing in our half? The answer to that is no. Fluid and mobile, the Cambodian team was easily miles better than the Blue Tigers in the first half and was well led by their talented striker and creator in chief, Chan Vathanaka.

If we were playing to our aerial strengths, why weren’t we fielding two tall strikers in Vineeth and Robin with fast wingers like Udanta and Jackichand from the first minute? The answer to this is we do not prepare according to the opposition. We watch them in the first half and play 45 minutes of football against them i.e. the second half. Imagine a team pumping in 4 goals against us in the first half; it’ll be very difficult for us to fight back to victory from there.

Jeje Lalpekhlua is absolutely critical to the side if the ball is on the ground and the opposition plays attack-minded football. The Mizoram born striker has developed an ability to hold up play higher up the pitch and allow his teammates to come up for swift counter-attacks, something Robin Singh, the target man, can never provide. We plead the national team manager to prepare the team according to the opposition, and not according to how they play the first half.




Published: Thu Mar 23, 2017 03:02 PM IST


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