The Indian U-23 side ended up losers as they faced Uzbekistan U-23 in their opening game of the AFC U-23 Championship Qualifiers 2020 held in Thailand. The hosts and current champions Uzbekistan dealt the visitors a 3-0 defeat making their chances to qualify for the next round very narrow.
But, the Indian youngsters are preparing for their second and final group stage game of the qualifiers, against Tajikistan on Sunday.
India had a below-par encounter against Uzbekistan. The squad that had a number of players from the U-17 World Cup in 2017 and others fresh from the ISL and I-League campaigns had more hopes on them. However, the current champions proved to be a tough challenge for Derrick Pereira & Co.
Even after some early chances for KP Rahul and Daniel Lalhlimpuia, India couldn't get off the scoreboard. Finally, a penalty at the end of the first half meant that Uzbekistan took the lead through Islomjon Kobilov. The hopes of a comeback in the second half was spoiled by the lack of connection between the players at vital points. The lone chances in front of goal were ruined by the Indian attackers on a number of occasions. Facing Tajikistan, the head coach would demand a better understanding in the midfield which can lead to team goals from the attackers.
Tajikistan has reached the Qualifiers after serious and long preparations. The camps for the squad began in early February and they have since played a number of matches. Tajikistan U-23's first preparatory game was a 1-1 draw against the U-21 team of CSKA Moscow, who defeated Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League group stages. Since then, Tajikistan has had matches against FC Vorskla Poltava U-21 and FC Krasnodar U-21. The final stint of preparations were the two friendlies played out against UAE U-21 earlier this month. With a handful of days together, Tajikistan will have the understanding between players to offer India some hard time. The team is playing their first game against India U-23 and has the next group fixture against Uzbekistan U-23 two days later.
Only the group winners and top four runners-up will qualify for the Championship to be held in Thailand next year.
India U-23 vs Tajikistan U-23: Match Information
Date: 24 March 2019
Kickoff: 5:30 PM IST
Venue: Pakhtakor Central Stadium, Tashkent
India U-23 vs Tajikistan U-23: Team News
Any changes brought about in the starting XI would only come in the midfield or attack. Daniel Lalhlimpuia might be replaced by Komal Thatal. In the midfield, if Derrick Pereira decides to make any alterations, it might be Sahal Abdul who had a quiet day against Uzbekistan, going out.
Sheriddin Boboev will be playing as the striker and Ehson Panjshanbe and Karomatullo Saidov as the holding midfielders. The coach will be aiming at winning the game through a possession-keeping midfield.
India U-23 vs Tajikistan U-23: Probable Lineups
India U-23 (4-4-2): Dheeraj Singh, Sarthak Golui, Anwar Ali, Gaurav Bora, Nishu Kumar, Vinit Rai, Anirudh Thapa, Sahal Abdul Samad, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Komal Thatal, KP Rahul
Tajikistan U-23 (4-2-3-1): Fathullo Boboev, Alisher Kholmurodov, Hussein Nurmatov, Manuchehr Safarov, Zoir Juraboev, Ehson Panjshanbe, Karomatullo Saidov, Mukhammadzhon Rakhimov, Sorbon Avgonov, Saidmukhtor Azimov, Sheriddin Boboev
India U-23 vs Tajikistan U-23: Form Guide
Loss (vs Uzbekistan U-23; Group Stage)
Loss (vs Qatar U-23; Friendly)
Loss (vs UAE U-23; Friendly)
Win (vs UAE U-23; Friendly)
Loss (vs FC Krasnodar U-21; Friendly)
Draw (vs FC Vorskla Poltava U-21; Friendly)
Draw (vs CSKA Moscow U-21; Friendly)
India U-23 vs Tajikistan U-23: Head-to-Head
India U-23 vs Tajikistan U-23: Key Players
India's most key figures on the field will be their two attackers KP Rahul and Komal Thatal. Both of them had playing time in the previous match. While Rahul started the game, Thatal was brought in the second half as a substitute for Rahul. However, starting both the strikers together will only strengthen India's attack. If India has any hopes of clinching a win against Tajikistan, it would be from the goal scoring boots of these two players.
Tajikistan U-23 will have a sharp spearhead at their attacking end, in the form of Sheriddin Boboev. The 19-year old plays for FC Istiklol and has a total of 27 goals in his career so far. The 5ft 11in striker can prove to be a real cause of harm, if not dealt with care by the Indian stopper backs.
India U-23 vs Tajikistan U-23: Predictions
Taking a deeper look into the recent form and preparations made, it has to be admitted that Tajikistan holds a major upper hand. However, the Indian youngsters fresh from their club duties cannot be underestimated. If India can get their midfield running without halt and the strikers can poach in and take their opportunities, they might build a challenge but still fail to match with the opponents. It might be Tajikistan's victory in their opening game.
Predicted Score: India U-23 1:2 Tajikistan U-23Published 23 Mar 2019, 13:23 IST