The big preview: Can India scale the Jordan peak sans Sunil Chhetri?
Stephen Constantine will use the game to finalize the nuts and bolts of his squad for the AFC Asian Cup.
After drawing in a backs-to-the-wall contest against China in October, the trajectory continues to rise in terms of football on the pitch for the Indian national team. In their quest to prepare for the AFC Asian Cup 2019, they will play Jordan in a friendly in Amman on Saturday, with less than two months to go for the continental showpiece.
Jordan, widely-regarded as one of the fiercest competitors in Asian football, have also qualified for the same tournament and the match can be viewed as a litmus test for Stephen Constantine’s men, who recently ended their 14-match unbeaten run, before losing to Maldives in the SAFF Cup 2018 final in an underwhelming manner.
NorthEast United's midfield lynchpin Rowllin Borges was a surprise exclusion
The Englishman had called up 30 probables for the clash, with Komal Thatal being the only surprise pick. After the training camp, the list was cut down to 22 players, who wiho have traveled for the match. Significantly, talisman Sunil Chhetri is out with an injury and it will be interesting to see how the team’s attack responds without the man who has carried the responsibility almost single-handedly for close to five years now.
About The Teams
Jeje is expected to lead the frontline alongside Balwant Singh
Sans Chhetri, India certainly look a depleted side going forward. With striker Jeje Lalpekhlua not on song, it adds to the crisis. Meanwhile, forward Balwant Singh has shown flashes of his treachery with the ball at ATK, but has been pushed far left, giving him limited shots on goal.
The Indian midfield, though, looks settled. Both Pronay Halder and Anirudh Thapa have had a memorable year, with some sublime performances. A significant exclusion from the final squad is Rowlin Borges, who has been brilliant for his ISL side NorthEast United and his added attacking prowess would have been a welcome addition to the bench. The wingers have their task cut out.
Both Holicharan Narzary and Udanta Singh are expected to start, but the duo has not set the stage on fire so far in the league. FC Goa’s Jackichand Singh has been a key figure in his side’s resurgence, linking-up play with the likes of Ferran Corominas and Edu Bedia with ease. Ashique Kuruniyan might be given the nod on the left at the expense of Narzary, but is unlikely to start.
The backline has a familiar look. Sandesh Jhingan, expected to wear the armband, will start at centre-back with Subhashish Bose. West Bengal duo Narayan Das and Pritam Kotal will take up the flanks and the guard will be manned by the mercurial Gurpreet Singh Sandhu. Anas Edathodika, who hasn’t played enough football for his club Kerala Blasters, may play a part later in the game.
The Mizo Sniper is in poor form currently but could deliver the goods against Jordan
Up top, the combination of Balwant Singh and Jeje Lalpekhlua is expected to start. In a static 4-4-2, the conversion of defence to attack will lie on the young shoulders of Thapa, who will have to be at his best with runs into the box. With Chhetri not around, he will certainly have a bigger voice on the pitch and it’s an opportunity that the Chennaiyin FC midfielder can use.
The An-Nashama, which loosely translates to the ‘Brave Gentlemen,’ is the nickname given to the Jordanian national side. The brave is certainly there, given Jordan’s never-give-up attitude that holds the side in good stead. They recently played 2018 FIFA World Cup finalists Croatia and lost 2-1, speaking massively about the quality and fight the side carry in their underbelly.
In the Asian circuit, they held Oman to a goalless draw and held European minnows Albania to a goalless draw as well, six days before the valiant fight against Croatia. They are not great going forward, having scored just five times in their last six games.
Under Vital Borkelmans, the squad has certainly undergone a sea change in terms of tactical rigidity, with security-first its motto. 14 players from the squad ply their trade beyond national borders, with no comparison to India’s none. Borkelmans earlier functioned as the Belgium national team's assistant manager and his experience at one of Europe’s most talented sides holds him in good stead.
His preferred formation is 3-4-1-2 and young APOEL forward Musa Al-Taamari will be the country’s most potent threat. His battle against Bose will be a treat to watch, certainly. Under the bar, there’s a tough fight between captain Amer Shafi and Moataz Yaseen, with the former expected to return to the starting XI.
Amer Shafi, Al Alarab, Bani Yassen, Khattab, Al-Bakhit, Al Samrieh, Al Mardhi, Shelbaieh, Angelos Chanti, Al-Taamari and O Khadr.
What To Expect
A game of who defends better is on the cards. Jordan, meanwhile, can be expected to control bulk of the possession, with India sitting deep and working on counters. The speed of Udanta Singh and if played, Kuruniyan, will be key behind the midfield-four of Jordan as the wide spaces are seen vacant a lot of times.
Although the Bengaluru forward won't be there, Constantine has other options who he can rely on
Pronay Halder will have to be at his best against the technical duo of Chanti and Al-Taamari, both players being adept at creating things from the midfield. Taamari, on song, is a nuisance as he continues to drop deep to get involved and also likes going wide. Man-marking against Jordan could be a bad idea and it will be down to Constantine to chalk out a successful blueprint for this key encounter with much more than just a friendly win at stake for India.
Published: Sat Nov 17, 2018 02:04 PM IST