Indian football gets off to a fresh season with a new face at the helm of things - Igor Stimac. The senior team will face Curacao on 5th June in their first fixture of the King's Cup at the Chang Arena in Buriram, Thailand.
India has grabbed worldwide attention with their good performances in the last few years. Former manager Stephen Constantine played a crucial role in taking the team way forward.
However, the AFC Asian Cup, where India lost two matches paved way to Constantine's exit. Igor Stimac's major hurdle in his first assignment would be the clash with the Constantine way.
As far as we know, Stimac is expected to draft a plan with the midfield controlling the game. Constantine's defensive-minded tactics will take time to leave the Indian camp. The inclusion of in-form players has helped the Croatian coach win the fans' support.
India's chances in the King's Cup will rely on the difference between Stimac's plans and the players' execution of the same on the field.
This wouldn't be an easy task for a squad being together for two weeks only. India, placed 101, in the FIFA rankings would see this as a golden opportunity to shoot up in rankings.
Curacao, a Dutch Carribean Island will be the Blues' fierce opponent on the field at the King's Cup.
Curacao will be making their first appearance in the cup but holds a firm grip of being the top-ranked team in the tournament - 82 in FIFA rankings. The team is managed by Remko Bicentini and possesses numerous players with foreign league exposure.
Curacao's journey in international football has been remarkable. In July 2014, they were ranked 183rd and in July 2017, they rose to their best-ever rank - 68.
However, they have lacked on-field game time in 2019. Their only fixture was a CONCACAF Nations League Qualification game against Antigua & Barbuda, which they lost 2-1. In the league, they hold a good position ranked fourth on the table.
India's mantra for success against Curacao would be their lack of knowledge about Sunil Chhetri's team. With very little links between the two football nations, India does have a chance to surprise their opponents.
India vs Curacao: Match Information
Date: 5 June 2019
Kickoff: 2:00 PM IST
Live Stream: Star Sports Network and Hotstar
Venue: Chang Arena, Buriram
India vs Curacao: Team News
Jobby Justin, Rowllin Borges and Nishu Kumar were surprising omissions from the squad. Rahul Bheke and Sahal Abdul Samad are expected to make their senior team debuts against Curacao.
Curacao has named a squad with no notable absences from their lineup against Antigua & Barbuda in March. The team under Bicentini is expected to go in with a 4-4-2 formation.
India vs Curacao: Probable Lineups
India (3-4-1-2): Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Rahul Bheke, Sandesh Jhingan, Subhasish Bose, Udanta Singh, Pronay Halder, Anirudh Thapa, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Sahal Abdul Samad, Sunil Chhetri, Manvir Singh
Curacao (4-4-2): Eloy Room, Cuco Martina, Darryl Lachman, Shanon Carmelia, Shermar Martina, Leandro Bacuna, Jarchinio Antonia, Michael Maria, Gevaro Nepomuceno, Gino van Kessel, Charlison Benschop
India vs Curacao: Form Guide
India vs Curacao: Head-to-Head
No previous meetings.
India vs Curacao: Key Players
India's most key player on the field will be striker Sunil Chhetri. The 34-year old will once again be the center of attraction. Even if Stimac opts to play a single striker, Chhetri will find his spot in the lineup.
The Bengaluru FC captain is expected to utilize the good combination with his club teammate Udanta Singh on the right flank. Udanta's crosses towards Chhetri will be a lethal weapon in the Indian camp.
Leandro Bacuna is a name India should look out on the field. The midfielder who plays for Cardiff City in the Premier League will have a crucial role in the middle for Curacao.
Bacuna has scored 9 goals from his 19 international caps. The former Aston Villa player will be the feeder for the attackers at the finishing end.
India vs Curacao: Predictions
Curacao is without doubt superior to India in many aspects of the game. Under the new coach, India would be determined to pull off a tough challenge.
However, the lack of familiarity between the coach and players might be a setback for the Blues. This gives Curacao an upper hand in predictions.
Predicted Score - India 1-2 Curacao