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Varun Kumar Mukhia/Khel Now

100-not-out Chhetri looks to lead buoyant India past depleted Kenya in Intercontinental Cup

Written by: Punit Tripathi

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The skipper who scored a hat-trick last time out will look to celebrate his landmark by helping his team overcome the Harambee Stars.

A 5-0 win at the onset of an international tournament always brings positive vibes to a team and India’s triumph by the same scoreline over Chinese Taipei on Friday, albeit a depleted side, is sure to add confidence to Stephen Constantine’s men.

Sunil Chhetri rolled back the years, guiding the team to a 2-0 lead in the first half and completed his hat-trick in the second. Udanta Singh and Pronay Halder got themselves on the score-sheet, with jaw-dropping finishes to say the least. Additionally, Anirudh Thapa and Jeje Lalpekhlua had positive outings in the attacking half.

Subhasish Bose, after a sound season at Bengaluru FC, looked composed on the ball and resolute while defending. Custodian Gurpreet Singh Sandhu looked happy, but had meagre saves to make.

 

Watch: India 5-0 Chinese Taipei highlights

Accounted for compositely, the outing had more pros than cons as India move on to their next encounter against a depleted Kenyan opposition, who have left their best players back home.

Team and Composition

You don’t really tweak with winning combinations, but Constantine can be expected to try out players at positions that are open to examination. Thapa and Bose made strong claims for starting spots, with Lalpekhlua proving why he’s touted as the best #9 in the country. Khel Now had earlier reported on how the Chennaiyin striker has become a more complete player under John Gregory.

Watch Indian players prepare ahead of facing Kenya

Jerry Lalrinzuala, Mohd. Rafique, Rowlin Borges and Davinder Singh will all look to come into the XI for the next game. Lalrinzuala at left-back, the Rafique-Borges pair would like to start at the heart of the midfield and Davinder at right-back will be expected to be tried for the future. If Constantine has finalised the last line-up as his preferred XI, a lot of fans would certainly be happy.

However, knowing his experimental nature at such tournaments, fans are bound to find changes in the XI. Gurpreet, Anas Edathodika and Sandesh Jhingan look certain to start again. Lalrinzuala and Davinder could be the full-backs, with the Chennaiyin man having a higher chance, if Bose is dropped.

Watch Sunil Chhetri talk about his 100th India appearance

At the heart of the midfield, Rafique and Borges will be hoping to start after coming in late into the game against Chinese Taipei. On the wings, Holicharan Narzary and Udanta Singh are expected to continue on the left and right respectively, with Jackichand Singh eagerly waiting to overshadow the Bengaluru FC winger when given a chance. But, that looks highly unlikely for now.

Up ahead, India’s untouchable duo of Lalpekhlua and Chhetri are expected to make the most of their understanding yet again. Jeje looked very comfortable holding onto the ball and the way he pulled off defenders to allow Chhetri space to run into was commendable. His passing, too, has improved immensely. It’s just one game and we hope it continues in the future.

Coming to Indian football’s forever man-of-the-moment, there are no adjectives left to describe him. He’s on a mission and it is visible in his eyes. He pushes himself beyond limits and Taipei’s manager Gary White was right when he said, “youngsters will look up to Sunil Chhetri someday.”

Formation

No brownies for guessing this one right, because Constantine’s love for the traditional 4-4-2 is well documented. The Englishman likes one sitting midfielder, and the other one is tasked to do most of the running and linking up with the attacking third. Chhetri slots into the second striker's role and Lalpekhlua’s positioning helped him immensely in the last game, but tougher challenges lie ahead and the captain is well aware of that.


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About the Opposition: Kenya

Ranked 111 on the FIFA rankings, Kenya possess a property every African nation has - physicality in their ranks. Managed by Sébastien Migné, the Harambee Stars are expected to test the pair of Edathodika and Jhingan with their aerial prowess and running off the last defenders.

 Watch: Kenya 2-1 New Zealand highlights

Constantine might also be tempted to play secure full-backs, as Kenya rely on its wingers to create most of the chances. The wingers are inverted runners, and strikers run into space behind central defenders and fullbacks to give freedom to their creative outlets, the wingers. Young and fast, the forwards are tireless runners who'd be a deal to watch out for. The central pair of Edathodika-Jhingan will need to cut down space, but that will pull the full backs inside. This will lead to space for the wingers, who cut in after receiving balls from the central midfield. 

At the heart of midfield, Kenya possess midfielders that are good at playing defensive and distributive roles with ease. Kenya defend with six players at any given time, and the full backs go ahead only when there's space. The team lines up in a 4-4-2 formation, with the strikers playing off each other. 

Up ahead, the team presses higher up the pitch, in an almost 'gegenpressing' kind of way. The team continues to press until they win the ball back and then dominate possession, playing the ball on the ground or back, when space isn't available. India must have a plan to ensure that they can keep the young opposition at bay. 

Precisely, India must try and press, to cut space and time for these balls, if they are to nip attacks in the bud. Also, India must keep dead-ball specialist Clifton Miheso and Ovella Ochieng under special contention to ensure the Harambees do not run India out of the game. 

Kenya XI: Patrick Matasi, Jockins Atudo, Erick Otieno, Michael Kibwage, Musa Mayeko (C), Patilah Omoto, Pistone Mutamba, John Makwata, Miheso Cliffton, Duncan Otieno, Ovella Ochieng.

Schedule, Telecast and Venue

The match will be played at the Mumbai Football Arena. The Star Sports Network will cover the game and it will start at 8 PM IST. Khel Now will keep you updated with live commentary, videos from the stands, players and the coaches as well as both post-match press conferences streamed Live on our Facebook page, followed by reports on the same.

Published: Mon Jun 04, 2018 03:35 PM IST

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