India must beat Turkmenistan in AFC Challenge Cup

August 2nd, 2008 - 3:57 pm ICT by IANS  

By Abhishek Roy
Hyderabad, Aug 2 (IANS) India are in a tight situation and have to beat Turkmenistan by a handsome margin in their last Group A match Sunday to qualify for the semi-finals of the ongoing AFC Challenge Cup football tournament here. After the second round of matches, the hosts are second in Group A behind Turkmenistan. Both teams have four points each. But Turkmenistan enjoy a better goal difference after their 5-0 rout of Afghanistan, which is lying at the bottom of the table. Tajikistan is third with just two points.

India have improved with each match and also did well to come from behind to hold defending champions Tajikistan 1-1 at the Gachibowli Stadium here Friday.

The best way for India to advance to semi-finals is to win Sunday’s match by a huge margin and top the group to avoid the possibility of facing tournament favourites North Korea, who in all probability will top Group B.

India coach Bob Houghton will have to field his best squad against Turkmenistan, the most impressive outfit in Group A.

Skipper Bhaichung Bhutia, who came in as substitute in the last match, will start the proceedings with Sunil Chettri upfront. Chettri, despite his limitations, fought well against the burly Tajikistan defenders and will have to repeat the same performance Sunday. But the onus will be on Bhutia to inspire his team to play like champions.

But Houghton has to shake up his defence for the crucial match. The defence has been plagued with fitness and inexperience. Injury to experienced Deepak Mondal in the first match has ruled out the defender for the rest of the tournament and with Mahesh Gawli yet to gain his top-form, the defence is the main concern.

Senior pro Gawli is slowly getting back his form and will have to marshal the defence with Sameer Naik, Anwar Ali and Gourmangi Singh. Wing-backs Surkumar Singh and Syed Rahim Nabi are also expected to come in as substitutes to facilitate the forwards in some stage of the match.

The midfield is also improving, and with winger Steven Dias gaining confidence against Tajikistan, it has brought some smiles on Houghton’s face. Dias nearly scored the winner Friday but his free-kick hit the bar. With Dias on the right, Renedy Singh will start on the left after getting some rest. But central mid-fielder N.P. Pradeep is off-colour.

For their part, Turkmenistan will look to carry on their fine performance against the home team as well. And the spotlight will be on midfielder Vyaceslav Krendelev, who has turned out to be the playmaker for his team. Krendelev, who plays for Russian Premier League Club Amkar Perm, has created most chances for his team in this tournament.

Guvanchmuhamed Ovekov who scored the maiden hat-trick of the tournament Friday night, will also be itching to give his team a great start Sunday.


India: Subrata Paul, Subhasish Roy Chowdhury; Anwar Ali, Surkumar Singh, Gourimangi Singh, Deepak Mondal, Govin Singh, Baldeep Singh, Mahesh Gawli, Syed Rahim Nabi, Samir Naik; N.P. Pradeep, Renedy Singh, Bungo Singh, Climax Lawrence, Ajayan Nair, Steven Dias, Clifford Miranda, Mehrajuddin Wadoo; Bhaichung Bhutia, Sunil Chettri, Sushil Singh and Abhishek Yadav

Turkmenistan: Bayramniyaz Berdiyev, Maksatmyrat Shamuradov; Parahat Annaberdyyev, Mekan Nasyrov, Aleksey Pronchenko, Guvanch Rejepov, Rustam Saparov, Parahat Meredov, Yakup Ezekov; Begli Annageldiyev, Vyaceslav Krendelev, Bhatiyar Hojaahmedov, Guvanchmuhammed Ovekov, Vitaliy Alikperov, Begenchmuhammed Kuliyev, Serdar Geldiyev, Guvanch Hangeldiyev; Mamedally Karadanov, Dovletmurad Atayev, Berdy Shamuradov, Gahrymanberdi Chonkayev, Yusup Orazmamedov

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