By Shahrukh Sohail, Chief Editor, Islamabad
Matches: (2) – 17th and 20th August, 2014
Location: Bangalore Football Stadium, Bangalore, India
Time: 3:00 PM PST (Both matches)
Previous Encounter: India 1:0 Pakistan
The Shaheens played valiantly but lost due to an own goal from captain Samar Ishaq in last year’s SAFF Championship in Nepal. However, the team has been considerably changed since then with seniors being axed and a lot of news faces coming in.
Amrinder Singh, Ravi Kumar, Kamaljit Singh
Pritam Kotal, Keenan Almeida, Joyner Lourenco, Shankar Sampingiraj, Sandesh Jhingan, Salam Singh, Narayan Das
Pronoy Halder, Rowlin Borges, Clifton Dias, Alwyn George, Siam Hangal, Lalrindika Ralte, Dhanpal Ganesh, Milan Singh, Francis Fernandes, Alesh Sawant
Seiminlen Doungel, Sunil Chhetri, Robin Singh, Haokip Thongkoshim, Mandar Rao Desai
Both the sides are using these matches for experience ahead of the crucial U-23 Asian Games in South Korea next month. The Blue Tigers started training in July at the Bangalore Stadium before departing for an exposure trip to the Czech Republic, where they played 3 games against local sides, losingt 1-0 to SK Senco Doubravka, drawing 2-2 with FK Banik Most and losing 3-1 to TJ Jiskra Domažlice.
The worrying fact for Pakistan is that all three goals were scored by captain Sunil Chhetri, who is in excellent form ahead of the two-match series.
The Indian skipper was evidently denied five times by Yousuf Butt last year, but with the Denmark-based goalie not in the squad, goalkeeper Ahsanullah and his defence will be in a for a very rough ride as they look to contain the former Sporting Lisbon forward.
The Bengaluru FC forward is equally capable of scoring and possesses a very strong physique – something which neither of Pakistan’s two starting centre-backs Ahmed and Bilal have in abundance.
Sportskeeda’s Indian Football Correspondent Amoy Ghoshal:
I don’t think the results will bother Koevermans and his players too much but the performances could. As the matches weren’t telecasted, we can’t be sure of how exactly India performed but am sure Koevermans and his coaching staff will have identified the areas where we need to improve. One big concern will be the fact that Sunil Chhetri was the only scorer in the tour.
There is no dearth of talent in the 25-man squad that toured Czech Republic but many of the U-23 players lack experience even at I-League level. Only 3 of the U-23 players has represented India at senior international level so it remains to be seen if this group can step up at the Asian Games stage.
The strength is definitely going forward as the two strikers – Sunil Chhetri and Robin Singh – are the first-choice forwards in the senior national team also. The likes of Francis Fernandes, Lalrindika Ralte and Alywn George have the ability to provide quality service but the concern is that barring Francis, the only other naturally wide players in the squad are teenagers Mandar Rao Desai and Alesh Sawant, who didn’t even feature in the Czech Republic tour. The other positions – goalkeeping, defence, central midfield – have plenty of talent but short on international experience.
Once again skipper Sunil Chhetri will be the main man and a proof of the same was his form in the Czech Republic tour as he scored three in as many games.
Although the feeling in Pakistan is that India are overwhelming favourites, I expect both games to be tight as we too are lacking in experience. Maybe the home advantage will give us a slight edge so perhaps a narrow win for India and a score draw.