In­dia aim knock-out berth

Ch­hetri to equal Bhutia’s record of most ap­pear­ances

The Hitavada - - SPORTS -

SHAR­JAH, Jan 13 (PTI)

A HEART­BREAK­ING loss af­ter a stun­ning win dent­ing their con­fi­dence, In­dia will still be fired up by the prospect of a maiden knock-out round berth when they take on Bahrain in their fi­nal Asian Cup group league match here on Mon­day.

A draw against the West Asian side, cur­rently ranked 113, will be enough for In­dia (ranked 97) to qual­ify for the round of 16 for the first time in the con­ti­nent’s show­piece event af­ter failed at­tempts in 1984 and 2011.

Mon­day’s match at the Shar­jah Sta­dium, which may turn out to be the big­gest night of In­dian foot­ball af­ter its achieve­ments dur­ing the Golden Years (1951 to 64), is also sig­nif­i­cant as tal­is­manic skip­per Su­nil Ch­hetri will equal for­mer cap­tain Bhaichung Bhutia’s record of high­est ap­pear­ances for the coun­try at 107 each.

In­dia had fin­ished run­ners-up in the 1964 edi­tion in Is­rael but that tour­na­ment was played in a round-robin for­mat com­pris­ing four coun­tries with the win­ners be­ing de­cided on the ba­sis of points col­lected in the league. There was not a sin­gle knock-out match in that edi­tion.

But even a de­feat on Mon­day may still see In­dia (3 points from 2 matches) through to the knock­out rounds as one of the four third-placed teams if hosts United Arab Emi­rates (4 from 2 matches) beat Thai­land (3 from 2 matches) in Al Ain in the other Group A match to be played si­mul­ta­ne­ously.

Four third-placed sides from the six groups of four team each will also ad­vance to the knock­out rounds, along with the top two coun­tries.

Un­der the com­pe­ti­tion rules of the Asian Cup, if two teams end their group stage en­gage­ments on equal points, the rank­ing will be de­cided first on the ba­sis of head to head re­sult.

So, if both Thai­land and In­dia lose their matches on Mon­day, In­dia will end at third as they have de­feated the ‘War Ele­phants’ 4-1 in their open­ing match.

But the Stephen Con­stan­tine side can­not lose to Bahrain — to whom In­dia lost 2-5 in the 2011 Asian Cup — by a big mar­gin as goal dif­fer­ence will get the first pref­er­ence while de­cid­ing which team makes it to the Round of 16 among third place sides of equal points.

Su­nil Ch­hetri

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.