It would be not an exaggeration to say India start as overwhelming favourites in their crucial AFC Asian Cup 2019 qualifier against Macau on Tuesday. Stephen Constantine's men are enjoying an impressive 10-game unbeaten run while Macau, ranked 183 in the FIFA rankings, will host India after losing their last three games in this year.
But India would be aware of showing any signs of complacency, considering a win would put them in a very strong position to qualify for the 2019 Asian Cup in UAE.
Previously in the qualifiers, India overcame a tough away challenge against Myanmar thanks to a solitary goal from captain Sunil Chhetri and defeated Kyrgyz Republic at home 1-0 in July, again thanks to a goal from Chhetri. On the other hand, Macau have lost both their matches against Myanmar (0-4) and Kyrgyz Republic (0-1).
With two wins in as many matches, India sit on top of the Group A with six points.
Ahead of the game, coach Constantine also spoke about complacency, saying the team won’t have it easy against Macau.
“I feel Macau were a bit unlucky against the Kyrgyz Republic. But we are here to play our game and we need to concentrate on ourselves,” he said.
“It’s true that we are at the top of the table at the moment but we need to work harder if we are to stay there,” he added.
After missing matches against Mauritius and St Kitts & Nevis in the Tri-Nation Series, Chhetri will back in the fold, wearing the captain’s armband and leading India’s charge. His attacking instincts were sorely missed in the Tri-Nation Series and Constantine will once again bank heavily on his instrumental captaincy when it comes to scoring goals and creating opportunities.
Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, another talismanic player for India, will also return to the team and will look to add another clean sheet to his name after not conceding a single goal against both Myanmar and Kyrgyz Republic.
Constantine will mostly likely keep faith in Narayan Das, Anas Edathodika, Sandesh Jhingan and Pritam Kotal in the back while Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Rowlin Borges and Halicharan Narzary should feature in the midfield. In the attacking department, Robin Singh, Jeje Lalpekhlua and Chhetri will look to make an impact.
India have not given away any goals in the qualifiers but they also scored only two goals. Macau will surely know about India’s dependence on Chhetri so they will try to make things more difficult for the Bengaluru FC’s man. In that case, the other attackers will have to step up and take charge of things.
Surely, Constantine would be aware of Macau’s defensive frailties. They lost to Myanmar 0-4 and last week the team conceded four goals again in a friendly against Hong Kong. So Constantine’s gameplan should be all about ruthlessness. He should make the team look for goals right from the start and put Macau on the backfoot early on in the match.
For Macau, much of the burden will be on Leong Ka Hang. The 24-year-old striker, who plays professional football in Hong Kong, was declared the Most Valuable Player in 2016 AFC Solidarity Cup where Macau ended up as runners-up after losing the final against Nepal.
Chan Hiu Ming, who was recently appointed as head coach of Macau and is just one game old, will also pin his hopes on forward Nikki Torrao and captain Paulo Cheang Leong to trouble India.
On Tuesday, rain will also be a significant feature in the game as Macau is dealing with the after-effects of typhoon Hato. When asked if rain will cause any major problems for India, Chhetri said, “We are used to the rain. It was raining even in Bangalore and Mumbai. We are professionals and as professionals, we need to adjust to the weather.”
India and Macau are among the 24 teams fighting for remaining 12 places in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. The 24 teams have been divided into six groups with top two countries in each group making it to the main tournament in UAE.
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Updated Date: Sep 05, 2017 11:47:58 IST