India’s Chance at Redemption on Syria As rain began to fall, the score-line read 5-2 in favour of Korea DPR. More than seven thousand fans held their head in arms. They glanced at the scoreboard with disdain and disbelief. India had put up yet another disappointing performance. They had hoped for better and more spirited performance, improving on the last game, however, the defensive vulnerability continued to be exposed and remain an unresolved problem.
How the Game Panned Out?
All the enthusiasm coming into the game was washed out after India conceded three goals in just the opening half hour. The eleven players on the field were struggling to find their feet against a lower ranked side. Sandesh Jhingan, who had started the game after missing out in the opener due to an injury, came off as his injury resurfaced. India seemed to be further pegged back.
Then at the beginning of the second half, Igor Stimac brought in the likes of Udanta Singh and Lalrinzuala Chhangte to operate down the flanks and add more pace and fervour. The Viking claps continued in the stands and within five minutes of coming on as a substitute, Chhangte pulled one back for India. As a gate of opportunity seemed to open up for India, it was closed down pretty quickly by a strike from Ri Un-Chol that put the visitors 4-1 in front. No, a comeback seemed like a far-fetched dream.
During the post-match press conference, Stimac said, “Every player has got the chance and not a single player can say that I haven’t seen him. Everything is clear.” With the pressure mounting from the fans who have been left disappointed with 3 losses in 4 games since the Croatian has been in-charge, we could well see Stimac’s best XI on the ground.
Addressing the problem of lack of goal-scorers, the Croatian said, “You cannot expect Sunil in every game and again and again and again Sunil will perform. We need more players.” After Sunil Chhetri the highest goal scorer in the squad is Sandesh Jhingan, who is a center-back. Other strikers haven’t had their share of goals and probably opportunities, but with Stimac introducing a new style, chances will come; players need to rise to the occasion
As a young boy of around 10-years age, you dream of representing your nation one day, with thousands of fans chanting your name. But every good thing comes with a responsibility and now is the time for the youngsters in the national set up to step up and delivers the goods
What to Look Forward to?
Referring to recent poor results the Indian coach said, “I can’t look at the score now. I need to look at India’s score for the future and not now.” World Cup qualifiers are set to begin from early September and India are placed in Pot 3 for the draw. India will soon need to start producing results if they are to have a shot at the 2022 World Cup. Stimac, understandably, will take time to get the team adapted to his style and pick his best 15 which he can work with. But he would look to get that sorted as soon as he can.
‘No more a sleeping giant’ is the message in a banner hanged by the Blue Pilgrims throughout the Tournament. This shows the belief fans have in this team. They back the Blue Tigers to achieve things which have never been achieved before.
Every new system takes time to settle in. Stimac has introduced a system that will have long term benefits to Indian football. The most important thing is, for the players to continue to believe in his philosophy even when the results are going against them. As the proverb goes- It is always darkest before the dawn. Soon positive results will start to come in and a new chapter will be written in the history of Indian football.
The Next Opponents
At 85, Syria is the best-ranked side in the tournament, and have won a game in the tournament, while losing the other. They beat Korea DPR 5-2 but were handed a 2-0 loss at the hands of Tajikistan, who have been the team of the tournament.
Syria has a chance to seal qualification but would need to beat India given Tajikistan and Korea have both won a game-a-piece.