India play their final 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Turkmenistan on Tuesday in Kochi in a fixture where neither team has a chance of qualifying for the third round of World Cup qualifiers. Turkmenistan are currently third in the group and cannot catch up with second-placed Oman while India are at the bottom where even all three points will not be enough to leapfrog Guam.
While Turkmenistan have ensured that they directly made it to the third qualifying round of the Asian Cup, India still have a lot of work to do in the qualifying playoff round.
Kickoff and Live Telecast
Kickoff: Tuesday, 29 March – 18:00 IST
Venue: Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kochi
Live Telecast: Sony Six and Sony Six HD
Live Stream: No stream available yet
India: The Blue Tigers could see captain Sunil Chhetri make a comeback from injury in this game. Having missed out on the previous qualifier, a 4-0 defeat to Iran at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran, fans will be hoping to see the Bengaluru FC forward back in action.
“He has a chronic groin problem and that is the reason we left him out versus Iran,” India coach Stephen Constantine said. “He has improved in the last week and it will be a last minute decision to include him or not.”
Chhetri himself was optimistic about a return to the starting lineup but left the decision to the medical staff.
“It is better than what it was,” Chhetri said in an interview. “But I am not in a position to take any call. My work is to keep doing the recovery and it’s up to the medical staff to decide.”
Fellow striker Robin Singh and midfielder Eugeneson Lyngdoh are still out of action with long-term injuries while Bikash Jairu has been replaced after the East Bengal winger had to come off in the first half of the Iran game with an injury.
Turkmenistan: Head coach Amangylyc Kocumow is in bigger trouble with as many as eight first-team players not in the squad for the final qualifier. “India have a good national team,” he said. “We also have a young side with eight first team players missing but we want to do well.
“The qualifying campaign could have been better as we are placed third with 10 points but we wanted to be second where Oman is now,” he explained.
What is left to play for?
As mentioned earlier, Turkmenistan have already sealed a place in the third qualifying round of the Asian Cup. India, on the other hand, need a win to improve their chances of being put into Pot 1 in the playoffs to avoid facing a tougher opponent.
Currently, India are in the playoffs alongside Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Chinese Taipei, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives and Yemen. Of the lot, only Maldives are ranked higher than India at the moment until the FIFA rankings are updated after the international break is over.
The last time India qualified for the Asian Cup was in 2011 where they were placed in a strong group with Australia, South Korea and Bahrain. The Blue Tigers lost all three games and will look to do better if they manage to qualify for the tournament.
*Iran and Oman have qualified for the third round of World Cup qualifiers for Asian teams
India (160) are 47 positions below Turkmenistan (113) in the FIFA World Rankings. The central Asian team have already beaten India with a 2-1 scoreline in the reverse fixture in October last year at the Kopetdag Stadium in Ashgabat.
But with a number of first teamers missing for the visitors, this is the opportune moment for India to grab a second win in the qualifiers. They beat Guam in Bengaluru and the support in Kerala, prominent during the Indian Super League and the recently concluded SAFF Cup, might just help them get over the line and cause an upset.
Predicted score: India 1-0 Turkmenistan
Betting Odds (Paddy Power)
India – 21/10
Draw – 23/10
Turkmenistan – 5/4Published 28 Mar 2016, 17:42 IST