AFC Asian Cup 2019, India v Bahrain - Expert Talk - Predictions, Views, Opinions from Top Stars

Sunil Chhetri & Co need at least a point against Bahrain
Sunil Chhetri & Co need at least a point against Bahrain

The Indian national football team will play its final Group A of the Asian Cup 2019 against Bahrain on Monday, January 14, at the Al Sharjah Stadium.

After going down 2-0 to UAE, India will have to target all the three points against Bahrain to qualify as the table-toppers or as the second-placed team from Group A.

If they manage a draw, they will have to wait for the results of the other groups to qualify as one of the four best third-placed teams into the Round of 16.

But what can happen when India face Bahrain? Who are the favourites? Will Stephen Constantine deploy the same tactics against Bahrain considering they will give it all against India?

We asked a few former India players and some current players what they expect from the game.

Here's what they had to say:

Renedy Singh

(Former India midfielder and captain. Commentator at Star Sports)

Renedy Singh
Renedy Singh

Against UAE, India hit the bar twice. We need to give credit to the boys for creating so many chances. They were at least 4-5 chances which could have gone in.

We have to see what we do off the ball. We need to react quickly during the transitions.

At this high level, you cannot afford to lose your focus even for a moment. UAE played two long balls which led to the goal. The long ball should have been prevented by closing down on the player.

The second mistake was the communication between the defenders. And the third mistake is that the defensive midfielder has to track back after the pass.

Bahrain are the weaker side and they have just one point in two games. They will come all out against India. We need to wait and hit them on the counter.

I was worried about India not scoring against UAE because we're not good at chasing games. Whenever you are chasing games, you need a big creative player and India only have a few of them. That's why it's better if we wait and play on the counter.

In the game against Thailand, India scored first and that changed the match. Sunil Chhetri's goal in the second half gave India some inspiration and they scored more.

Against Bahrain, we have to wait and adopt those long balls. Bahrain will attack, their full-backs will also join and that will leave space at the back. Halicharan Narzary and Udanta Singh, the wingers, will have to unleash their pace and create chances for India.

Iain Hume

(ISL champion and the joint highest goal-scorer; Inventive Sports UK athlete, who currently plays for FC Pune City)

Iain Hume
Iain Hume

I don’t think much went wrong against UAE, to be honest. India had the chances in the first half and were very unfortunate to hit the bar twice.

On any other day, they could’ve been 2-3 up by half time. One mix-up ended up in going 1-0 down. Then as happens so often in games, they were pushing in the second half for the equaliser and got caught on the break!

Against Bahrain, I think they just need to approach the match with the same confidence and belief that they’ve had vs both Thailand & UAE.

This group of lads seems to have a different level of belief in themselves than I’ve seen over the past 4 years. So they just need to go in without any added pressure and believe if they play the same way they have done so far, they can get the result needed.

It's good enough for India to win this match, so go give it everything.

Steven Dias

(Former India midfielder, known as the David Beckham of India. Currently the coach of Ambitious Football Academy in Mumbai)

Steven Dias
Steven Dias

Don't go by the scoreline. The boys played really well. We had clear open chances in the first half. Had we scored them, it would a different story.

UAE, I think, won because of their goalkeeper (Khalid Eisa). He's the one who stopped those scoring opportunities by Sunil Chhetri and Ashique Kuruniyan. That was really unfortunate.

Even if I had to take that chance, I would have shot just like them. It was the 'keeper who stood between India and the goal there.

The way they played, it showed that Indian football has improved. We've a young squad with an average age of 25 and you have an experienced guy like Sunil Chhetri in that mix. The way he's performing at this age (34) is commendable.

All the good work we did was negated in the first half with just one mistake. UAE took that mistake and scored.

Against Bahrain, we have to go for all the three points. India can qualify even with a draw but it means you qualify as one of the third-placed teams and you should never wait for the results of other groups to know your fate.

The coach needs to plan for this game well and he can. I have already told you that he's an intelligent guy and right now, he will be going through the videos of how Bahrain play to figure out what the Indians can do.

India cannot sit back and defend for 90 minutes. It won't work. We have to take inspiration from the first half of the match against UAE and then the second-half performance of the match against Thailand to come up with a stellar performance.

Next slide - Bhaichung Bhutia's final word

Mehrajuddin Wadoo

(Former India captain and midfielder. Currently the youth coach of FC Pune City)

Mehrajuddin Wadoo
Mehrajuddin Wadoo

India versus UAE was a great game to watch. We should all take pride in the way our team played against UAE. In my opinion, we were better. Everyone played their role as expected but the only thing which we couldn't do was convert those chances we created. If we had scored from the chances we created, we could have won the game.

On the other hand, UAE created fewer chances but converted and that was the difference. Against teams like UAE if you get chances and don’t score, then they will capitalise.

Bahrain will be again a tough one as they also need points to qualify. They will go all out to win against us. Our team should focus on getting a point out of the game at least. We need to stay focused for the entire game and make sure we don't concede.

Every team wants to win and I think if India score first, they need to stay mentally strong and not let the opponents to score back. Now is the time to show our real mettle and the senior players will have to take some extra responsibility on the field.

Kean Lewis

(Bengaluru FC winger)

Kean Lewis
Kean Lewis

The loss against UAE happened because we missed a lot of chances. We were unlucky. Ashique was one-on-one with the keeper and that was a great save. Sunil Chhetri's header was unfortunately straight at the keeper.

If only it was a little to the left or right, it would have been a goal. Then, Udanta hit the post once. We had close chances but unfortunately we didn't see the back of the net.

I didn't think UAE played an exceptional game. They are ranked above India but not a huge difference in terms of quality. On any other day, if we had converted, it would have been our win.

I think both Bahrain and India don't have an option but to go for the win. We have the option of just getting a result too but Bahrain have to win. For us, playing those long balls to Udanta counts as one of our strengths because he's just so fast. Gurpreet too can hit those ball from the goal-line. It a tactic that seems to be working well for India.

I think in football, it really matters who scores first. India were confident and tactically sound when they scored first against Thailand. That helps in pushing further in the game because you get positive vibes.

When you are chasing, you might panic. You might try a lot and get frustrated when you don't get the goal. But it's a game of football and anything can happen. Even when Bengaluru FC are playing, we have scored late goals and that shows anything is possible. Even if you are a goal down, you have to stay positive and keep working till the end.

I can't say what Constantine will exactly apply against Bahrain though. He would have watched Bahrain's videos and based on that, he will fix and adjust his approach. Nonetheless we have to go all out and get the win.

Bhaichung Bhutia

(Indian football legend and former captain of the national team)

Bhaichung Bhutia
Bhaichung Bhutia

I think the way the team approached the first two matches, they should keep it that way. They shouldn't change.

They had a good start against UAE. It was very unlucky that they couldn't take the lead. Overall, I think we did well in the first half and we should play like that.

You can't go into a match thinking you will get a draw. You need to defend 90 minutes and that's tough. It's not a good thing when India are on the back-foot after conceding a goal as well.
They need to get the first goal and keep it up.

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Edited by Alan John
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