India bank on sturdy defence ahead of UAE test in the AFC Asian Cup

Sooraj Kamath - Writer 00:59 09/01/2019
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The Indian defence will have to be at top of their game

India will be looking to build on their dream start in the Asian Cup – where they stomped four goals past Thailand’s War Elephants – as they take on the formidable hosts on Thursday.

The Blue Tigers are currently on top of Group A, after UAE and Bahrain played out a 1-1 draw.

A win against the UAE – something that would be perceived as an upset – could assure qualification to the round of 16 for India. A point would not do much harm to their chances, either.

We take a look at some of the talking points for the Blue Tigers ahead of this crucial tie-up.

DEFENSIVE DISCIPLINE COMES FIRST

Apart from a lapse of concentration which led to Thailand’s only goal and a mishap by Udanta Singh in the second half that could have led to another strike, the Indian defence put on a flawless show.

Should they manage to pull off an upset over the hosts, the defence will be the focal point of the game.

Pritam Kotal, Sandesh Jhingan, Anas Edathodika and Subhasish Bose deserve credit for their impressive performances. However, it was again manager Stephen Constantine who ensured there was a disciplined set up against the War Elephants.

India have been a deep-defending team throughout the Englishman’s tenure but against Thailand, the Blue Tigers set up a mid-block. This can be seen as a brave approach, but one which could work against them when they face a more organised team like UAE .

Simply put, the defence will be key for India and there is no margin for error.

SUNIL CHHETRI HOLDS KEY

India's forward Sunil Chhetri (R) fights for the ball with Thailand's defender Chalermpong Kerdkaew during the 2019 AFC Asian Cup Group A football game between Thailand and India at the Al Nahyan Stadium stadium in Abu Dhabi on January 6, 2019. (Photo by Khaled DESOUKI / AFP) (Photo credit should read KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)

India’s forward Sunil Chhetri (R).

The golden man stepped up at the golden moment against Thailand.

Chhetri – who overtook Lionel Messi and became the second-highest active international goal scorer – was involved in three of the four goals India scored on Sunday.

It should come as no surprise if the Bengaluru forward is the star man against UAE.

The hosts start as favourites, dominating possession and other aspects of the game. This means that India will have to be as prolific as possible with whatever little chances they manage to create.

Whether it’s about creating those chances or finishing them, there’s one man who does it better than anyone else – Chhetri.

His combination with winger Udanta Singh will be crucial in counter attacks – India’s best bet against a dominant team.

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