The Indian men’s football team will look for a much-improved show and also a better result as they take on hosts Nepal in the second international friendly at the Dahsrath stadium in Kathmandu.
India laboured to a 1-1 draw in their last friendly match and the performance left a lot to be desired. India looked devoid of ideas in the final third and vulnerable to lapses in defence as Nepal were full value for the draw.
The Blue Tigers have struggled under coach Igor Stimac having won just two matches out of the 16 that the Croatian has been in charge. Even though he was handed an extension in July, Stimac will be under pressure to get a positive result in order to maintain the board’s confidence that he remains the right man to guide India into the all-important AFC Asian Cup qualifying campaign.
Ranked at 105, 66 places above their opponents India will be expected to emerge victorious in the Sunday encounter. yet, the results haven’t always gone according to the rankings under Stimac. India have drawn twice against Afghanistan and were also held by Bangladesh in the World Cup qualifying campaign.
On Thursday, substitute Anirudh Thapa came in as saviour for the visitors as found the equaliser in the 60th minute after Nepal grabbed the lead through Anjan Bista in the 36th minute.
But on Sunday, India will have to raise their game to outwit a determined Nepal, who will be brimming with confidence following the last match result.
India head coach Igor Stimac was not happy with the performance but hoped for a better show from his wards on Sunday.
“The mood is positive and our boys are aware that they can do much better. Of course, we are still short with the energy level because we are just at the end of the second week of preparation, and the legs are still heavy. But, they are looking forward to put in a better performance,” he said.
“We are going to change a few things, and see if that can help us in terms of passing with more confidence, and getting forward easier.”
India custodian Gurpreet Singh Sandhu too feels that the team needs to raise its bar on Sunday to come out on the positive side of the result.
“The last game was a tough one and Nepal were very organised. We had moments where we could have done better as a team, and there were moments where we did get better.
“We need to make sure that we have a strong mentality going into the second game. We need to make sure that we use it to prepare for the SAFF Championship in good order,” he said.
Thapa, who suffered an injury scare in his ankle in the last match, is fit to play on Sunday.
“I am fine now,” assured Thapa.
“I have been working on my short sprints, especially my start. That allowed me to connect the ball ahead of my marker, and even goalkeeper Kiran-bhai (Kiran Limbu),” he explains.
“We were much better in the second half in the first match and wished the match could have continued for some more time for us to find the winner,” Thapa concluded.
The friendlies are being organised as part of preparations for next month’s SAFF Championships in Maldives.
The five-team SAFF Championships will be held from October 3 to October 13 at the National Stadium in Male.
The match will kick off at 5:15 PM IST and will be streamed Live on the Indian Football Team’s official Facebook page.
(With PTI inputs)
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