India defeated Hong Kong 4-0 in their final game of the AFC Asian Cup 2023 Qualifiers in Kolkata on June 14. Both sides secured their spots in the AFC Asian Cup 2023 before kickoff. With Palestine defeating the Philippines earlier, the game was about deciding who tops the group.
The Blue Tigers started with a bang as they took the lead in the second minute courtesy of an Anwar Ali strike from inside the box.
With the early goal secured, India tried to take hold of the game and play some quality build-up football. Hong Kong, on the other hand, tried hard to find an equalizer. They created some good chances but failed to convert them.
The second half started with the Blue Tigers keeping hold of the ball and trying to control the game. Hong Kong kept trying to score goals and get themselves back in the game, but the Indian defence held firm.
With this victory, India qualified for the AFC Asian Cup 2023 as group toppers.
On that note, let's take a look at three talking points from today's game.
#3 India displays their best brand of football under Igor Stimac
The Blue Tigers' performance under Igor Stimac has always been questioned, up until the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers. In the first game against Cambodia, Stimac managed to win 2-0, but the team's performance wasn't up to expected standards.
In the second match against Afghanistan, which looked headed for a draw, Stimac's side almost left it too late. An injury-time goal by Sahal Samad, however, secured victory.
On Tuesday, against Hong Kong, the Blue Tigers started the game with a bang as they took the lead in the second minute. The early goal helped the Blue Tigers build momentum and put pressure on the Hong Kong side. The overall game was better than the previous ones. The side looked to build up in a structured manner with positive forward passes.
Stimac will hope the Blue Tigers can retain this form and improve further.
#2 All of India's strikers get their names on the scoresheet
The Blue Tigers started the game with Sunil Chhetri as the lone striker upfront. The captain didn't fail to get his name on the scoresheet. Chhetri finished off a smart free-kick from Jeakson Singh.
In the second half, Igor Stimac introduced Manvir Singh and Ishan Pandita. Manvir Singh got his name on the scoresheet in the 85th minute when he blasted the ball into the roof of the net from a Brandon Fernandes pass.
Ishan Pandita scored the fourth goal in added time for his first of the qualifiers. It was also Ishan's first goal for the national team.
#1 India's approach to the game took Hong Kong by surprise
The Blue Tigers and Hong Kong had already secured a spot in the AFC Asian Cup 2023 before kickoff on Tuesday. With Palestine defeating the Philippines, one of the best five-second spots was reserved for the team that finished second in Group D.
The general assumption was that Igor Stimac would experiment with their line-up and try players that haven't had much game time. He, however, fielded a strong playing XI and the team started the game with a bang, taking an early lead. This led to Hong Kong losing its rhythm and taking a physical approach to the game.
The physical approach taken by Hong Kong suited the Blue Tigers. They matched Hong Kong in that department and came out as the superior side in almost all physical duels. The Blue Tigers' intelligent, swift build-up play was also something that surprised and troubled Hong Kong.