AFC Asian Cup 2019: India reject Syria's request for friendly on Dec 30
UPDATE: India will not play Syria on Dec 30 as the All India Football Federation (AIFF) has rejected the request for an international friendly from the Syrian Arab Federation for Football. India will play an Emirati club instead.
The Indian national football team is likely to play Syria in a friendly on December 30, sources in the know said.
The friendly will be the last preparation game for Stephen Constantine's boys before the AFC Asian Cup in January 2019. Just before the Syria game, India will also lock horns with Oman on December 27 in Abu Dhabi.
While the Oman game was confirmed last month by the All India Football Federation (AIFF), the Syria fixture has not been announced officially yet.
India coach Constantine, however, had told reporters earlier that the AIFF is in talks with a couple of nations for a fourth friendly before the Asian Cup.
India have already played China and Jordan during the last two FIFA international breaks. While they managed to hold China 0-0 in Suzhou on Oct 13, a depleted Indian side lost 1-2 to Jordan in Amman on November 17.
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India are placed in Group A of the Asian Cup alongside hosts UAE, Bahrain and Thailand. They will play their Asian Cup opener against Thailand on January 6 in Abu Dhabi.
According to the latest FIFA rankings, Syria are ranked 74th in the world. India, on the other hand, managed to retain their position at 97th despite the loss to Jordan.
The friendlies against Oman and Syria just before the Asian Cup will be a good test for Sunil Chhetri & Co to tighten their screws before the Asian Cup.
Oman too are ranked above India in the 83rd spot and the last time that these two sides met was during the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers in 2015, where Oman defeated them 4-0 at home and 1-2 in Bengaluru.
India last played Syria in 2012 in an international friendly and walked away from that 2-1 victors. They have played each other five times overall and have a 2-1-2 head-to-head record.
Constantine said he will look at the remaining friendlies to strike the right rhythm before the Asian Cup kicks off.
National Coach Stephen Constantine Constantine highlighted the “need to strike a rhythm.”
"It's now a question of trying to establish a rhythm and making sure we all know what we have to do. In our last game against Jordan, the circumstances were exceptional and that was a good learning experience for all the players,” Constantine told the AIFF.