Upbeat India Face Stern Test Against Higher-Ranked UAE In AFC Asian Cup
India can expect the UAE to come hard at them after a 1-1 stalemate against Bahrain in the tournament opener.
An upbeat India, after registering an emphatic victory over Thailand, will face higher-ranked United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the AFC Asian Cup 2019 clash on Thursday. While the result against Thailand, who have three J-League players in their ranks, was no mean feat, it will be a bigger achievement if the Indians are able to put it across the hosts who are gunning for the title. Currently ranked 79th to India's 97th, the UAE were placed as high as 24 in the FIFA chart in January 2015. In the head-to-head battle, UAE hold a clear upper hand over India. The two teams have clashed 11 times, with UAE winning eight, India clinching two victories and one match ending in a draw.
Coach Stephen Constantine will be pleased with how the second half against Thailand turned out. India not only managed to shut down a lethal Thai attack after being tied 1-1 at the break, but also threatened at the other end through quick transitions in attack.
That stupendous show earned India three valuable points, a place on top of the group and a goal average of plus three.
"We have a very young side here and they are excited. Of course, hosts UAE will be a different game. They are a very good side but they are just another team standing in our way," said Constantine.
As far as the Indian team is concerned, Sunil Chhetri hogs the limelight wherever he goes and the Blue Tigers will again look up to him upfront.
It will not exactly be appropriate to say that Chhetri will be high on confidence after his double strikes against Thailand, which saw him go past Argentine superstar Lionel Messi in the goal-scoring chart among active international players, because that is an ingredient the Indian talisman never lacked. He is never overconfident, though.
In a team sport like football, a squad heavily dependent on Chhetri would not have experienced a 13-match unbeaten run on way to qualifying for the tournament.
Over reliance on the 34-year-old striker would not have seen them maul Thailand the way they did.
Minutes after coming off the bench against Thailand, Jeje Lalpekhlua found the back of the net, and so did young Anirudh Thapa.
However, the surprise package was rookie forward Ashique Kuruniyan, Udanta Singh being the livewire down wide right.
Udanta, in fact, set up a couple of goals including the inch-perfect cross from right flank, which Chhetri slammed home for India's second goal.
India: Sumeet Passi, Balwant Singh, Sunil Chhetri (capt), Jeje Lalpekhlua, Udanta Singh, Jackiechand Singh, Germanpreet Singh, Pronay Halder, Anirudh Thapa, Vinit Rai, Rowllin Borges, Ashique Kuruniyan, Halicharan Narzary, Pritam Kotal, Sarthak Golui, Sandesh Jhingan, Anas Edathodika, Salam Ranjan Singh, Subhashish Bose, Narayan Das, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Vishal Kaith, Amrinder Singh.
UAE: Khalid Eisa, Ali Khaseif, Mohamed Al Shamsi, Mohamed Ahmed, Ismail Ahmed, Khalifa Al Hammadi, Fares Juma, Khalifa Mubarak, Al Hassan Saleh, Walid Abbas, Bandar Al Ahbabi, Amer Abdulrahman, Mohamed Abdulrahman, Khalfan Mubarak, Majed Hassan, Ismail Al Hammadi, Ali Salmeen, Khamis Esmail, Saif Rashid, Ali Mabkhout, Ahmed Khalil, Ismail Matar, Mohammad Khalvan.
(With PTI inputs)