After putting on a spirited display to register a comeback 1-1 draw against Oman in their first international match in over a year, Indian Football Team crumbled like a pack of cards to lose 6-0 to the UAE in their second encounter.
Ranked 104 in the FIFA rankings, India played against higher-ranked Middle East oppositions. While Oman occupy the 81st spot on the ladder, UAE are positioned 74th.
Although there were some positives, the negatives outweighed them. The Indian Football Team needs to pull up their socks when they take on Qatar, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan in June in the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers.
Here are 5 talking points from the Indian Football Team's friendly matches against Oman and UAE.
#5 Amrinder Singh gives tough fight to Gurpreet Singh Sandhu in Indian Football Team's goalkeeping position
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was former India coach Stephen Constantine's numero uno pick for the goalkeeping spot. Having no competition after taking charge from Subrata Paul, the Bengaluru FC custodian made some good saves in the Indian Football Team's campaign in the FIFA World Cup and AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers
However, the recent rise of Amrinder Singh has now raised the bar for him. The Mumbai City FC goalkeeper maintained 10 clean sheets and pulled some captivating saves to help his side lift the ISL trophy.
Against Oman in the first friendly match, Amrinder saved a penalty and produced a couple of good saves. He also got a glove to the goal which India conceded.
Gurpreet, on the other hand, was clueless against UAE. The presence of Adil Khan and Mashoor Shereef didn't help him but the former UEFA Europa League player could have done better to make the final scoreline look respectable.
#4 Indian Football Team's best players in ISL get a reality check against UAE
Igor Stimac rewarded 11 players for their efforts in the 2020-21 ISL season by handing them debuts over the span of two friendly matches. After a valiant display against Oman, UAE gave them a reality check.
Akash Mishra was the best left-back in the ISL, with 80 tackles, 55 interceptions, and 37 blocks in 20 matches. However, UAE's Bandar Mohammed and Khalfan Mubarak toyed with him as the Emirati side mainly attacked from their right flank.
Suresh Wangjam performed decently in the first game against Oman. However, he was no match for UAE's defensive midfielder Ali Salmin. Liston Colaco won a foul in the 14th minute just outside the box but was kept quiet following that.
Although the aforementioned names were some of the best performers in ISL, they were overwhelmed by the gulf in quality between India's domestic league and international football.
#3 Manvir Singh shows signs of being the next striker capable of representing Indian Football Team
Sunil Chhetri successfully carried forward the legacy of Bhaichung Bhutia and IM Vijayan in international football. However, with age wearing him down, the Indian Football Team needs a new striker to take over the mantle.
After a terrific ISL season where he bagged 6 goals and 3 assists for runners-up ATK Mohun Bagan, Manvir Singh registered a goal to equalize for Indian Football Team against Oman. The lanky forward towered above his marker and found the back of the net with a thumping header in the 55th minute.
This was his fourth international goal and first against a side ranked higher than India. Against UAE, Manvir cut an isolated figure as the midfielders failed to provide him with opportunities.
At 25 years of age, the former Mohammedan Sporting Club player has plenty of time to groom himself. He just needs to maintain his fitness and continue on the upward trajectory.
#2 Lalengmawia and Bipin Singh brought their A-game for injury-hit India
India traveled to Dubai without regular players like Rahul Bheke, Brandon Fernandes, Sahal Abdul Samad, and most importantly, their captain Sunil Chhetri. The onus was on the new faces to prove their mettle.
While most of them succumbed to the pressure, Lalengmawia and Bipin Singh brought their A-game. Bipin normally plays on the left-wing for Mumbai City FC in the ISL, but head coach Igor Stimac positioned him on the right flank against Oman.
After a quiet first half, the Manipuri speedster floated a lobbing cross, which Manvir Singh later connected to score a goal. With Udanta Singh out of form, Bipin Singh has proven himself to be his capable successor.
After a breakthrough season with NorthEast United FC, Lalengmawia donned the senior national team jersey for the first time against Oman. The Indian Football Team looked more composed after his arrival and he was duly rewarded with a start against UAE. Although he performed his duties perfectly, the team was left wanting by his peers.
#1 Time for Igor Stimac to stop experimenting and aim for the result
In his 12 matches at the helm of the Indian Football Team, Igor Stimac has given debuts to 19 players. The Croatian has time and again tinkered with the starting line-up and that has led to inconsistency in the team's results.
The Indian Football Team initiated a high press on their opponents early in the game. However, it left acres of space behind and UAE made full use of it to thwart India.
Mashoor Shereef and Adil Khan's new-look defensive pairing looked porous. UAE's Ali Mabkhout punished them duly by connecting crosses from the right flank and leaving the pitch with a hat-trick.
Under Stephen Constantine, India had a consistent starting line-up and changes were made only if there were injuries or suspensions. It is high time that Igor Stimac decides on a set playing eleven and target results in the upcoming FIFA World Cup Qualifiers.