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After three games in the second stage of the Asian qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup, the Indian team heads to a former constituent of the Soviet Union, to keep its faint hopes of making it through to the next round alive.
In a game between the bottom two teams of the group, a loss will, in all likelihood, end either team’s hopes of qualifying for the next round of the qualifiers.
India have lost all three games they’ve played in Group D so far. A disappointing 2-1 loss in Guam was sandwiched between rather expected 2-1 and 3-0 reverses against Oman and Iran respectively, in Bangalore.
Turkmenistan have one point from a surprise 0-0 draw against Iran, amidst losses to Guam and Oman.
For Indian manager Stephen Constantine, the preparation for this vital pair of qualifiers has been far from ideal. With rather large travel distances involved, Constantine would have wanted to have a full-fledged preparatory camp, but that wasn’t to be, as the Indian Super League clubs refused to release the players involved with them during their pre-season.
Date and Time: Thursday, 8th October 2015 – 1830 IST
Venue: Sportkompleks Kopet-Dag, Ashgabat
There is no live stream or telecast for this game.
From the game against Iran, Constantine will have to do without the services of Dhanpal Ganesh; the 21-year-old is ruled out for this one, having recently undergone knee surgery. Gurpreet Sandhu put in a reasonable performance against Iran and is expected to continue between the sticks.
Constantine will look to build his plans from the bedrock of Sandesh Jhingan and Arnab Mondal at the heart of the defense. The experienced Dhanachandra Singh is carrying a niggle, and Narayan Das is expected to continue at left-back.
Eugeneson Lyngdoh hasn’t quite been able to replicate his form from Bengaluru FC in the I-League to the national team. He is likely to partner the feisty Pronay Halder in central midfield.
Constantine played Robin Singh on the left wing against Iran, but the big number nine has won plaudits for his abilities as a target man and is expected to start as the lone striker. Sunil Chhetri has scored all of India’s goals in the current qualification campaign and will once again spearhead India’s challenge, playing in the number 10 role.
The Turkmens have scored as many goals as India at this stage but have gained one point more thanks to a stubborn performance against Iran that ensured them a draw.
With a loss virtually ruling them out of contention for qualifying for the next phase, they will be looking to distance themselves from India at the bottom of the table. The manager Amangylyc Kocumow is also in charge of the U23 side, and FC Ashgabat, a club from the country’s capital.
The Turkmen attack features some talent, with Ruslan Mingazow and Arslanmyrat Amanow expected to feed the lone striker, which is likely to be one of either Serdaraly Atayew or Suleyman Muhadow.
Gorbunow, Babajanow, Annamyradow, Soyunow, Paparow, Atayew, Amanow, Geworkyan, Annaorazow, Mingazow, Muhadow
Gurpreet, Pritam Kotal, Arnab Mondal, Sandesh Jhingan, Narayan Das, Pronay Halder, Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Francis, Sunil Chhetri, Jeje, Robin Singh
Result of last three fixtures: L-D-L
Result of last game: Oman 3-1 Turkmenistan
- Result of last three fixtures: L-D-L
- Result of last game: India 0-3 Iran
The Turkmens are ranked 155 in the FIFA Rankings, 9 places ahead of India. But in four ties between the two teams, the Blue Tigers have a 2-1 advantage over their Central Asian rivals.
While Constantine will feel disappointed about not having enough time with the group of players, it is not all doom. All of the players have had full-fledged pre-seasons with their ISL clubs, which means that they should be close to the top of their fitness.
It looks like a game in which Stephen Constantine will look to get three points from because the Turkmens are seemingly the easiest opponents in the group. With trips to Iran and Oman looming, it is imperative that the Blue Tigers can cling on to whatever they can get in Ashgabat.
Constantine will no doubt be hoping that his Tigers can be ferocious and get the three points when they head to Muscat to play Oman next week.
Turkmenistan 1-2 India
Draw: 3Published 07 Oct 2015, 18:48 IST