India will have to tighten their game against Tajikistan

July 31st, 2008 - 7:53 pm ICT by IANS  

By Abhishek Roy
Hyderabad, July 31 (IANS) India had a lucky escape against Afghanistan in their opening Group A game of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Challenge Cup Wednesday night. It was a scrappy performance, no doubt, and unless they improve and come up with a tighter game plan, they will find it difficult to put it across reigning champions Tajikistan at the Gachibowli Stadium Friday. India had to wait till the dying minutes of the game to get the winner from a half-chance converted by Climax Lawrence, pouncing on a rebound off a Sunil Chettri attempt. They created a few chances in the first 25 minutes, but failed to convert any and they were in a panic state as the stopwatch started ticking.

Against Tajikistan, they will have to look out for even half chances, considering the defence the central Asian country put up against Turkmenistan in their goalless game.

The defending champions in their opening match safely played out a draw with Turkmenistan and against India will be looking to get full points.

Among the two Central Asian teams, Turkmenistan seemed to be the most impressive outfit and with Tajikistan they displayed some old touch of Russian football. Both the countries were formed after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. And there is still a taste of defensive Soviet football in their style of play.

Friday, Tajikistan’s obdurate and big burly defenders will be the main concern for India’s diminutive strikers - Bhaichung Bhutia and Sunil Chettri.

Bhutia is past his prime form and against Afghanistan he lacked the poaching-prowess and his ability to move in the box was also limited due to some good marking. It forced the Indian captain to move out of the box and wait for a loose ball, which hardly came his way, due the lack of creativity in the mid-field.

Both Bhutia and Chettri might face similar problems against the burly-Tajik defenders.

But the duo can’t be blamed for all, as they also didn’t get much supply from the mid-filed. The absence of a good winger is also a problem, which is compounding India’s worries.

Steven Dias, who had to sit out in the first match due to an injury, is expected to make a return Friday on the left wing in place of Bungo Singh. The midfielder was crucial to India’s Nehru Cup win last year as his immaculate crosses helped the forwards score lot of goals last year. Even Renedy Singh has been patchy on the left.

Former international Victor Amalraj felt that the wing-backs are not performing well and that is compounding India’s problem.

“In modern day football, the role of a wing-back is becoming more important. If we have one or two good wing-backs in the team, we can create more openings. It is a wonderful sight seeing the wing-back fly up and down the touchline terrorising the opposition. Their role is more attacking than the full-back’s, and it basically involves a great deal of running. They are a nightmare to defend against as you never know where they’re going to be,” he said.

Wing-backs Surkumar Singh and Sameer Naik were off-colour in the first match and it is to bee seen whether India coach Bob Houhgton replaces one of the players with Syed Rahim Nabi against Tajikistan. Nabi’s athleticism and his ability to run up and down continuously may be an added advantage for the hosts.

If India has to win, much will depend on the co-ordination between the defence and the midfield to create chances for the forwards.

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

Tajikistan: Alisher Tyuchev, Mirali Murodov, Amonsho Sodatsayrov; Dalerdzhon Tukhtasunov, Naim Nasirov, Davronjon Ergashev, Eradhz Radzhabov, Zfardzhon Zuvaydov, Sohib Savankulov, Suhrob Mansurov, Isomiddin Qurbonov, Eraj Kholov; Anvar Norkulov, Samad Shohzukhrov, Fatkhullo Fatkhloev, Yusuf Rabiev; Dzhomikhon Muhidinov, Davrondzhon Tukhtasunov, Numondzhon Khamikov, Dzhakongir Dzhalilov

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