Looking beyond the 6-1 win against Laos, what's ahead for India
It’s not every day that you find the Indian football team winning a match with a scoreline which can be representative of a tennis match score. But this time around India defeated Laos 6-1 to sail through to the next round of the AFC Asian Cup 2019, which is the group qualification round.
Many on the social media as well elsewhere seem elated with the comprehensive victory of the Indian team and there is absolutely every reason to do so. The last time India had a score line like was against Cambodia, during the 2007 Nehru Cup, when the host nation defeated the South Asian country 6-0. In fact, India’s best win so far has been with a score line of 1-7 against Australia in 1956.
So when the team performs so well, there is every reason for the fans to jubilant about it. However, let’s not be fooled by the by the scoreline here. The team deserves full credit for the brilliant performance, but there is also much more which needs to be discussed as now we face bigger Asian threats.
To start with, the host country did not have the best of the starts. For the first 35 minutes of the game, the team looked bereft of any confidence and missed out on quite a lot of chances. To give credits where it’s due, Keegan Pereira created two beautiful chances by taking to brilliant free kicks, but the sloppy forward line of the team failed to convert it into goals.
A refreshing attitude
India’s wing play was satisfactorily good and at its penetrative best, but the failed chances of the first half indicate that a lot needs to be done in regards to the finishing aspect. Considering that Laos is ranked below us, India got the chance to bounce back into the game, but things will be a little different if India are to play teams like Oman or even Guam who defeated the Blue Tigers in the FIFA qualifiers.
One thing that however came out of in this match were the tricks and tactics which the team has been practicing over the time. Many a time, the Indian team improvised with free kicks and corners. The success rate, however, wasn’t really that good as things weren’t really clinical. There is still lot more practice needed for perfecting these skills. But it’s really good to see the team improvising and with the preparatory time ahead of the next round, one can really hope that the team evolves even more.
The intent of attack which the team showed was very pleasing. Even after conceding the first goal the team did not back off as we saw the Indian defenders charging ahead of their positions and attacking. If the Indian coach is to be believed, that was the plan. Attack all the away. This attitude of the Indian team of not shying away even after conceding a surprise early goal needs to continue and the team should replicate the same even when they face bigger opponents.
A gruesome road ahead
The road isn’t particularly easy for the team ahead and even coach Stephen Constantine knows it very well. When asked about ultimately reaching the AFC Asian Cup 2019, the coach said, “My objective is to take the team to that spot. A lot will depend on the group, who we get and of course how we approach these games.”
Even captain Sunil Chhetri resonated the same saying, “Reaching the 2019 Asian Cup is possible, that’s the aim. It depends on the group that we get, depends on our preparation. But it’s good, one thing at a time.”
The captain, however, pointed out a crucial point about the team building up and developing team play. “Though we were the favourites against Laos, it wasn’t easy, especially after conceding the first goal. We recovered well as a team; it’s not easy when you have a young team”, said the Delhi boy.
Though he could not be on the score sheet, but Chhetri wasn’t disappointed at all and heaped praise over the youngsters who played exceptionally well.
The third and final round of the Asian Cup qualification process features 24 teams competing for 12 spots. And things won’t be easy for Constantine and his boys.
The best result for India in the Asian Cup was that of the runners up position and that too in 1964 when only four teams participated in the tournament after 11 out of 16 teams withdrew their participation.