2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers: 3 key takeaways from India's loss to Oman
The Indian team was well on its way to a great start in the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers against the higher ranked Oman. Captain Sunil Chhetri's 24th minute goal had infused much confidence in team playing their opening match at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium, Guwahati.
Igor Stimac's team survived a few nervy moments, mostly towards the end of the first half and stayed strong in their defence for the rest to deny the visiting team a shot at an equaliser. But a late resurgence from the Omani side and the double goal from left winger Rabia Al Mandhar proved too much for the Blue Tigers.
The Indian team will now travel to Qatar for their second game in the qualifiers on 10 September.
Here is a look at the standout performers from amongst the Blue Tigers in the first game.
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu
The Indian team was very good in their defence on the day and leading them was the Great Wall himself. Gurpreet Singh Sandhu felt a lot bigger than his 6 feet 6 inch stature on the day as he proved to be impenetrable for the Omani attack for a major part of the game.
Sandhu was at the receiving end of huge applause at the end of the first half when he a saved a shot (an impressive header) at the goal with a right hand deflection. He had a much busier second half, but held strong until the 82nd minute. He looked a little heavy footed coming out of his post then. Rania Al Mandhar's subsequent goals were a little too good for the Indian goalkeeper.
That is not to take away from his solid performance in the rest of the game. Had it not been for his presence, the scoreline could have read a lot differently.
A large part of India's performance in the game came off the back of some solid defending in the first half. Rahul Bheke was the standout performer who denied the strikers from Oman a shot at goal on multiple occasions with his timely tackles and skilled interceptions in India's defensive half.
Another moment of brilliance worth mentioning was an interception by Sandesh Jhingan at the fag end of the game, which denied Oman another goal.
The collapse at the end notwithstanding, it was still a solid effort by the Indian team in defence. That said, they will have to stay strong for the entire duration of the game if they want to stand a chance against Qatar next.
Sunil Chhetri had set the stage for a perfect start for India with his 24th minute goal. The Indian captain came out with no dearth of intent and it materialised with the strike, giving India a huge boost of confidence early in the game.
Chhetri led his men through trying times towards the end of the first half exceptionally well with a few impressive interceptions to his name too. He stayed aggressive till the very last, creating opportunities at goal on multiple occasions in the second half as well.
Chhetri rued the ball possession in the second half in his post match interview but said that the team will work hard and come back stronger from the loss today.