The Blue Tigers once again missed the services of a player who can dictate the tempo of the game from midfield.
India took on Jordan at the King Abdullah II Stadium at Amman under somewhat dire circumstances on Saturday night. The Blue Tigers, who were missing a host of their key players succumbed to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of the home side, who proved to be superior to them in every aspect. Goals from Shafi and Haddad had put Jordan 2-0 ahead, but substitute Nishu Kumar pulled one back for India soon after. However, it was too little too late as the Men In Blue fell to a rather harrowing defeat.
Here are the talking points from the game:
5. The Indian players must be commended for going ahead with the game
Facing atrocious weather conditions, transit delays and having to wait for 32 hours at the Kuwait international Airport, the Indian players came out to play against a side who are technically, much superior to them. A host of the players, including Balwant Singh and Jeje Lalpehklua, missed the match due to their travel delay, but the rest of the team showed up to take the field.
The team had to split up in groups of two and travel and failed to have even a single practice session at the venue.
4. Jordan have improved leaps and bounds recently
When it comes to traditional Asian powerhouses, Jordan do not make the cut right away, but the Middle-Eastern country have improved remarkably of late. Under the tutelage of Belgian Vital Borkelmans, the Al-Nashima have come on leaps and bounds. They pressed well, used the ball well and created plenty of chances during the game, but could not convert all of them.
The likes of Bani Attiah, Ihsan Haddad and Ayed combined repeatedly down the left wing to cause India tons of problems. The Men in Blue had to defend in two blocks of four for most of the game to restrict the home side.
3. Gurpreet Singh Sandhu stills makes the occasional error
He maybe one of the best goalkeepers in the country and he may even be the backup captain, but it seems Gurpreet Singh Sandhu still makes the occasional blunder. This habit of his was widely exposed during his time with East Bengal a couple of years ago and although, he is a much better goalkeeper now, he has seemingly still retained that odd error.
On Saturday night, he conceded after failing to judge the bounce of a long goal-kick from the Jordan custodian Mohammad Al-Basha, which caused the ball to land inside the Indian goal. Despite saving a penalty and making a number of vital saves, it was this mistake of his which ultimately cost India the game.
2. The Indian midfield desperately needs a playmaker
One of the major problems preventing India from making the cut against the bigger teams is the lack of a natural playmaker in the squad. Due to the lack of options, Coach Stephen Constantine was forced to play Anirudh Thapa upfront on Saturday, but it did not work. The midfield hardly managed to express themselves and this has been the case only too often.
The likes of Vinit Rai, Pronay Haldar and Germanpreet Singh are all decent ball-winners, but none of them have the ability to keep a move flowing or make the difference consistently. Germanpreet did set up the goal for Nishu Kumar, but it was more down to the lackadaisical attitude of the Jordanian defence than his own ability. The national team is screaming out for a technically adept, smart playmaker and it is high time that Constantine picks someone suitable for that role.
1. Time to bring some fresh blood into the squad
Constantine has often faced criticism for his poor selection and this match was not an exception. His decision to not pick the likes of Michael Soosairaj and Brandon Fernandes did not make any sense at all, for these players could have made a difference against Jordan. It is unclear as to what his plan is for the national team, as despite investing heavily and arranging high-profile games, there has been no significant change in the way the Indian team approaches matches.
The rise of Nishu, who made an impression on his debut as well as the integration of the promising Thapa into the squad is commendable, but the over-reliance on names like Pritam Kotal and Anas Edathodika cost the team once again in Amman. It is high time that the AIFF takes a call as to how the team is setup and makes a long-term plan for the next generation of stars.