A 1-1 draw against 10-man Bangladesh denting their confidence, India will need to quickly get their act together as they take on Sri Lanka in their second SAFF Championship match in Male, Maldives on Thursday.
The Indians go into Thursday’s game on the back of a disappointing stalemate with Bangladesh, against whom they should have won considering that they dominated the majority of the proceedings with Bangladesh down to ten men having taken the lead courtesy of a Sunil Chhetri strike.
However, that was not to be and India are looking forward to the Sri Lanka game to register their first win in the tournament, which they won a record seven times.
The Blue Tigers head coach Igor Stimac has come under fire for India’s failure to win enough matches in the recent past and he will be under the pump on Thursday.
Despite the loss against Bangladesh, India can afford to fancy their chances against the lower-ranked Sri Lankans who have struggled throughout the competition, losing both of their games so far while conceding four goals and scoring two. But Stimas said he respects India’s opponents.
“We have analysed our game against Bangladesh and we are not happy with the final result. We are two points from what we have to have in our kitty. So we need to do everything possible to win against Sri Lanka. We respect Sri Lanka as a team. I feel they could have two points from the two games they played. But they don’t have any, and that’s football,” he said.
“We need to be better defensively. If we can’t score the second goal, we need to make sure that we don’t concede the second goal. Man marking is extremely necessary when you play serious football, and we just cannot keep giving the balls away,” Stimac added.
The Islanders will have their task cut out if they are to move up from the bottom of the points table.
Chhetri had put India in the lead, before Bangladesh were reduced to ten men after Biswanath Ghosh was given the marching orders early in the second half. Yasir Arafat scored for Bangladesh to put his side on level terms later.
The Indian talisman will again look to score and add to his tally. Chhetri is just one goal shy of the iconic Pele in terms of international goals scored and a struggling Sri Lanka will be a great opportunity for him to scale yet another landmark in his illustrious career.
But he will need support from the others if the team is to secure full points from the game.
The Croatian said that the team needs to show patience and have the right attitude against the Sri Lankans.
After the disappointment against plucky Bangladesh, Stimac said “we are ourselves guilty for not winning the match.”
“We had everything in control, we dominated the game, and had a one-nil advantage, and even had a one-man advantage.
“But despite all of that, for some unknown reasons, we started giving away simple passes, making unnecessary mistakes. And if you boost the confidence of your opponent, that’s how it finishes when you give them a chance,” Stimac said.
The chief coach is using the tournament as the last opportunity for the players to play international matches before the start of the third round of 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers in February next year.
Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu felt the most pertinent task at the moment is “to minimise the mistakes.”
“It’s not so easy when we come here. Playing at 4 pm isn’t easy. Most of us have been here before with our respective clubs. We were here for almost two weeks, and are used to the conditions. It isn’t unfamiliar.”
“We know that we can’t commit mistakes. That’s the most important aspect, and we need to make sure that we use everything to our advantage. We need to go out and do our job – which is to win.”
Referring to a question about the physical play from the Lankans which has been a talking point, Stimac added: “They play whatever they can to stop the opponent from approaching the final third. That’s allowed in football. In fact, all the teams here have the ability to fight. They are not giving up and that’s what Sri Lanka have been doing well – fighting till the final whistle.”
“We need to find a way to get past them, and we can do it by quick passing, with a lot of movement, moving into the final third. We will have our chances and we need to be clever and be patient against them.”
Central defender Chinglensana Singh summed it perfectly. “We need to play to our strengths, and do our duties to the best of our abilities which will get us the desired result.”
Dheeraj Singh, Vishal Kaith, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Pritam Kotal, Chinglensana Singh Konsham, Mandar Rao Dessai, Rahul Bheke, Subhasish Bose, Seriton Fernandes, Udanta Singh, Brandon Fernandes, Lalengmawia, Anirudh Thapa, Sahal Abdul Samad, Jeakson Singh, Glan Martins, Suresh Singh, Liston Colaco, Yasir Mohammad, Manvir Singh, Rahim Ali, Sunil Chhetri, Farukh Choudhary.
Match Starts at 4.30pm IST.
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