Indian Football

Intercontinental Cup: Midfield conundrum might be coming to an end for India

The team was as usual, over-reliant on Sunil Chhetri, who scored eight of the 11 goals this tournament.

India beat Kenya in the final of the Intercontinental Cup at the Mumbai Football Arena on Sunday, as Sunil Chhetri bagged two more goals to take his tournament’s tally to eight.

Kenya were rather flat-footed and opted to operate on the wings, preferred to keep the ball rather than go direct which their opponents did. India operated on a ‘route one’ basis as they hoicked it long for their strikers to latch on to and slot it home.

Although an effective strategy against the second-string teams of their opponents, Stephen Constantine will have to devise a better plan to counter-act the superior technical and physical skills of their opponents Bahrain, Thailand and hosts UAE in the Asian Cup.

Over-reliance on Chhetri

Chhetri’s eight goals meant that India scored a total of 11, as Jeje Lalpekhlua, Pronay Halder and Udanta Singh scored the others. Take out Halder and Udanta’s goals, the fifth and third goals from a 5-0 thrashing of Chinese Taipei and only Jeje scored a goal of any note, the second in a rain-soaked group stage encounter.

As a measure of his importance to the team, the captain scored the opening goal in all these matches, breaking the deadlock every single time.

You have to imagine that at the Asian Cup, smarter, more resourceful, well-researched opponents will aim to stop Chhetri and dampen the heartbeat of this team. In their final Asian Cup qualifier against the Kyrgyz Republic, playing away without Chhetri, India struggled to mount any sort of attacking momentum and the scoreline of 2-1 rather flattered them.

In a Tri-Nation tournament match last year at Mumbai, India were only able to gain a 1-1 draw against St Kitts and Nevis. India’s captain serves as an all-action figure in attack, linking up forays forward, playing it to the wide men and dashing into the box to finish them off.

As a veteran forward of 50 caps now, a greater onus has to be placed on Jeje’s shoulders. The Mizo forward has this tendency to blow hot and cold, and did not do enough to impact the game in three of the four games that India played.

At UAE against three highly-skilled opponents, India cannot afford a Jeje or an Udanta to be lackadasical or be bereft of ideas. The attack cannot afford any passengers, as the captain will surely be under higher scrutiny than he was at Mumbai.

Solution to midfield conundrum edging closer

So, was this ideal preparation for the Asian Cup? No, not by a long shot. While it is true that neither the All India Football Federation nor the team can do anything about the squads that other countries send, the learnings that India can claim to take away from this tournament are very limited.

Stephen Constantine, after the game against New Zealand, admitted that his team were susceptible to aerial threats. The gaffer readily accepted that it’s a part of the game that they had to work hardest on, to avoid goals being conceded from set pieces.

The Englishman after more than a year of tinkering with Rowllin Borges, Eugeneson Lyngdoh and Mohammed Rafique in midfield, finally seems to have settled on a pairing of Pronay Halder (if he can remain fit) and Anirudh Thapa.

While Pronay brings the physicality, Thapa has the calmness and hopefully the game, to retain the ball better against opponents who may punish the midfield for sloppiness. The 21-year-old Chennaiyin FC player needs more game time at club level, but should have a greater say this season after his breakthrough in the last one.

The one possibility is that Constantine will revert to old ways and may opt for Lyngdoh, once the playmaker returns from injury. It will be interesting to see how the team line up in case the Shillong-based creator gets the nod in midfield ahead of one of Thapa and Halder.

With Dhanpal Ganesh waiting in the wings, the midfield remains a conundrum to the head coach but he could do worse than sticking to the duo which started three of India’s four matches in Andheri. It remains team India’s most problematic area and a solution seems to be the horizon, but the coach must be willing enough to shelve his old favourites and start fresh all over again.

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

Following a mountaineer as he reaches the summit of Mount Everest

Accounts from Vikas Dimri’s second attempt reveal the immense fortitude and strength needed to summit the Everest.

Vikas Dimri made a huge attempt last year to climb the Mount Everest. Fate had other plans. Thwarted by unfavourable weather at the last minute, he came so close and yet not close enough to say he was at the top. But that did not deter him. Vikas is back on the Everest trail now, and this time he’s sharing his experiences at every leg of the journey.

The Everest journey began from the Lukla airport, known for its dicey landing conditions. It reminded him of the failed expedition, but he still moved on to Namche Bazaar - the staging point for Everest expeditions - with a positive mind. Vikas let the wisdom of the mountains guide him as he battled doubt and memories of the previous expedition. In his words, the Everest taught him that, “To conquer our personal Everest, we need to drop all our unnecessary baggage, be it physical or mental or even emotional”.

Vikas used a ‘descent for ascent’ approach to acclimatise. In this approach, mountaineers gain altitude during the day, but descend to catch some sleep. Acclimatising to such high altitudes is crucial as the lack of adequate oxygen can cause dizziness, nausea, headache and even muscle death. As Vikas prepared to scale the riskiest part of the climb - the unstable and continuously melting Khumbhu ice fall - he pondered over his journey so far.

His brother’s diagnosis of a heart condition in his youth was a wakeup call for the rather sedentary Vikas, and that is when he started focusing on his health more. For the first time in his life, he began to appreciate the power of nutrition and experimented with different diets and supplements for their health benefits. His quest for better health also motivated him to take up hiking, marathon running, squash and, eventually, a summit of the Everest.

Back in the Himalayas, after a string of sleepless nights, Vikas and his team ascended to Camp 2 (6,500m) as planned, and then descended to Base Camp for the basic luxuries - hot shower, hot lunch and essential supplements. Back up at Camp 2, the weather played spoiler again as a jet stream - a fast-flowing, narrow air current - moved right over the mountain. Wisdom from the mountains helped Vikas maintain perspective as they were required to descend 15km to Pheriche Valley. He accepted that “strength lies not merely in chasing the big dream, but also in...accepting that things could go wrong.”

At Camp 4 (8,000m), famously known as the death zone, Vikas caught a clear glimpse of the summit – his dream standing rather tall in front of him.

It was the 18th of May 2018 and Vikas finally reached the top. The top of his Everest…the top of Mount Everest!

Watch the video below to see actual moments from Vikas’ climb.


Vikas credits his strength to dedication, exercise and a healthy diet. He credits dietary supplements for helping him sustain himself in the inhuman conditions on Mount Everest. On heights like these where the oxygen supply drops to 1/3rd the levels on the ground, the body requires 3 times the regular blood volume to pump the requisite amount of oxygen. He, thus, doesn’t embark on an expedition without double checking his supplements and uses Livogen as an aid to maintain adequate amounts of iron in his blood.

Livogen is proud to have supported Vikas Dimri on his ambitious quest and salutes his spirit. To read more about the benefits of iron, see here. To read Vikas Dimri’s account of his expedition, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Livogen and not by the Scroll editorial team.