India looking to upset UAE in World Cup qualifiers

July 22nd, 2011 - 9:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Al Ain (Abu Dhabi), July 22 (IANS) An inspiring 2-1 win over Qatar will stand India in good stead when they take on the mighty United Arab Emirates (UAE) here Saturday in the first-leg of the Asian qualifiers for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

India have some poor memories from their last outing against UAE, a 0-5 drubbing last November ahead of the Asian Cup. But the team has undergone a sea change since Armando Colaco replaced Bob Houghton last month. Colaco dropped 14 senior players, including captain Bhaichung Bhutia, who had led the side for the last 10 years.

Colaco infused fresh blood in the team and the results were for all to see. India, last Sunday in Qatar, scripted an historic win over the home side, who are the 2006 Asian Games champions, in an international friendly.

UAE, whose first and last appearance in the World Cup finals was in 1990 in Italy, are the clear favourites but India won’t be pushovers either. UAE are ranked 37 spots ahead of India, who are 147th in the FIFA rankings.

Going by India’s surprise win over 94th ranked Qatar, the 2022 World Cup hosts, an upset could be on the cards at the Sheikh Khalifa International Stadium, which is expected to be brimming with expats Indians from the neighbouring Emirates of Dubai and Sharjah and also from across the border from Oman.

Colaco, who replaced Houghton’s long-ball strategy with the passing game, hopes the tiki-taka style, characterised by Euro champions Barcelona, would could come good against the UAE. The passing game has paid rich dividends for Colaco at Dempo, which has tasted considerable international success in Asian club football.

Colaco tried to replicate the Dempo style in the national team and though they still have a long way to go, the Goan feels his boys best chance to beat the well built UAE players will be through the passing game.

“The plan will be to slow down the pace of the game. Qatar and UAE have similar style of play and the win has boosted the confidence of the boys. The only way we can beat UAE is by playing the passing game. UAE players are well built and beating them in the air will be difficult,” said Colaco.

Against a supremely fit UAE, Colaco will rely on a mix of youth and experience. Subrata Paul, who is now among Asia’s best, will be under the bar while Gourmangi Singh, Raju Eknath Gaikwad, Debabrata Roy and Sameer Naik will be manning the defence.

Colaco has added an aggressive flavour in the mid-field with the return of Mehtab Hussain. It will depend a lot on Syed Rahim Nabi, Steven Dias and Climax Lawrence, who will be leading the side, to feed the strikers.

Jeje Lalpeklua will be playing as an withdrawn forward and the in-form Sunil Chettri will be spearheading the attack.

Colaco knows that UAE will have the advantage but insisted his boys are up for the challenge.

“UAE surely have the advantage but my boys are up for the challenge. They are really playing good football at the moment. Every game we played was a great learning experience. This is a new team and it’s a good build up for the future. The boys are eager to give their best,” he added.

UAE are also brimming with confidence after their 6-2 win over Lebanon in a practice game, also held last Sunday. They had an exposure trip to Austria, where they remained unbeaten in three friendlies, including one against Romania’s top club Dinamo Bucharest.

But injuries to key players could unsettle the team. Goalkeeper Majid Nasser, skipper Subait Khater and superstar Ismail Matar are doubtful while midfielder Abdulla Mousa has been ruled out.

But their Solvenian coach Srecko Katanec seems unperturbed. He told his boys that India’s win against Qatar means nothing.

“We always knew that we would have a tough fight from India. My assistant saw their match against Qatar and we have made some significant observations. I am confident that we would win the match,” he said.

Teams:

India: Subrata Paul; Gourmangi Singh, Raju Eknath Gaekwad, Debabrata Roy, Sameer Naik;
Steven Dias, Mehtab Hossain, Climax Lawrence, Syed Rahim Nabi; Jeje Lalpeklua; Sunil Chettri

UAE: Ali Khaseif; Yousuf Jaber, Mohammad Ahmad, Hamdan Al Kamali, Waleed Abbas; Dhiyab Awana, Amir Mubarak, Ali Al Wihaibi, Amir Abdul Rahman; Mohamed Al Shehhi and Ahmad Khalil

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