In­dia need draw ver­sus Bahrain to ad­vance

WHAT HAP­PENS

Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur) - - World - HT Cor­re­spon­dent sports­[email protected]­dus­tan­times.com

SHAR­JAH: Ex­pec­ta­tions weren’t very high when Stephen Con­stan­tine’s In­dia be­gan their Asian Cup cam­paign in Abu Dhabi last Sun­day. A sur­prise 4-1 win over Thai­land and a promis­ing per­for­mance against hosts UAE in a 2-0 de­feat, have raised prospects of a place in the Round of 16. In­dia take on Bahrain in their last group game at the Al-shar­jah Sta­dium on Mon­day, with the knowl­edge that a draw will be enough to take them to the next round.

In the last two of the three edi­tions they have played in, In­dia failed to make it past the open­ing round of the Asian Cup. In 1964, when In­dia fin­ished run­ners-up, only four teams had taken part in a round robin for­mat.

Cur­rently sec­ond in the group with three points, the sce­nario for Con­stan­tine’s side is sim­ple. A win will see In­dia seal a top-2 place in the group, with the pos­si­bil­ity of a top spot in the event of UAE fail­ing to beat Thai­land. A draw will take In­dia to the next round, ir­re­spec­tive of what hap­pens in the other group game. If UAE win or draw against Thai- land, In­dia will be sec­ond in the group.

If Thai­land beat UAE, In­dia will fin­ish the group third with a draw but will still progress to the next round as one of the best third-placed teams. As many as four of the third-placed teams from the six groups will make it to the last-16, and in at least three of these groups, the third-placed teams are guar­an­teed to fin­ish with three points or less.

How­ever, a loss will leave In­dia at the mercy of other re­sults. If In­dia lose and UAE fail to beat Thai­land, In­dia will fin­ish bot­tom of the group and will be out of the tour­na­ment. Con­stan­tine’s side will need to hope for a UAE win in such a sce­nario. How­ever, even then, In­dia will fin­ish with just three points and pro­gres­sion to the next round will be de­pen­dent on the points tally and goal dif­fer­ences of all six third-placed teams.

IN­DIA CON­FI­DENT

Ahead of the crunch game, In­dia will be high on con­fi­dence after two bright per­for­mances. Con­stan­tine de­cided to name an un­changed XI against UAE after the win over Thai­land, and de­spite a cru­cial er­ror from cen- tre-back Anas Edathodika in the sec­ond game, the English tac­ti­cian will be ex­pected to con­tinue with his start­ing com­bi­na­tion.

Star striker Su­nil Ch­hetri will con­tinue to lead the at­tack­ing line, with Halicha­ran Narzary be­hind him in a float­ing role and Udanta Singh and Ashique Kur- uniyan in the wings. The cen­tral mid­field com­bi­na­tion of Pronay Halder and Anirudh Thapa has worked well so far but may re­quire Narzary to drop deep against Bahrain to counter the op­po­si­tion’s phys­i­cal­ity. Rowllin Borges will be an­other op­tion for Con­stan­tine if he prefers a more con­ser­va­tive com­bi­na­tion in the mid­dle.

Bar­ring the mis­take that led to UAE’S open­ing goal, the back­line of Pri­tam Ko­tal, Edathodika, San­desh Jhin­gan and Sub­ha­sish Bose has pro­vided able sup­port to Gur­preet Singh Sandhu in goal. How­ever, the de­fence could Sce­nario 1: In­dia win – Top spot if UAE fail to beat Thai­land; sec­ond spot if UAE win. Sce­nario 2: In­dia draw – 2nd spot if UAE beat or draw vs Thai­land; 3rd if Thai­land bt UAE. Sce­nario 3: In­dia lose and UAE beat Thai­land – Third spot for In­dia.

Sce­nario 4: In­dia lose and UAE fail to beat Thai­land – Fourth spot for In­dia.

Qual­i­fi­ca­tion cri­te­ria: In­dia will qual­ify in sce­nar­ios 1 and 2. In the case of sce­nario 3, qual­i­fi­ca­tion to the Round of 16 will be de­pen­dent on the stand­ings of third-placed teams from the six groups. In sce­nario 4, In­dia will be knocked out. find it­self busy against the likes of Mo­hamed Al Ro­maihi on Mon­day.

Against UAE, In­dia had failed to take ad­van­tage of a num­ber of scor­ing chances and hit the wood­work twice. Against Bahrain, they can ill-af­ford to be as prof­li­gate in front of goal.

AIFF

A win against Bahrain in Shar­jah could see In­dia top the group if hosts UAE fail to beat Thai­land. Even a loss could see Stephen Con­stan­tine’s boys ad­vance to the round of 16 if other re­sults go their way.

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