Kings Cup: India 1-3 Curacao – 3 reasons why India lost

India lost their match against Curacao
India lost their match against Curacao

Igor Stimac’s first game as Indian football team ended in a defeat. India lost 1-3 to higher-ranked side Curacao in their opening match of the Kings Cup at Buriram, Thailand on Wednesday.

India started well and kept their shape for the first 15 minutes before Rolient Bonevacia put Curacao ahead in the 16th minute. Three minutes later, Curacao doubled their lead through Elson Hooi.

The Blue Tigers reduced the margin in the 31st minute when Sahal Abdul Samad was brought down inside the box. Captain Sunil Chhetri calmly slotted the ball into the net.

Before India could settle in their position, Curacao scored their third through Leandro Bacuna.

Let us look at the reasons behind India’s loss.

#3 Defensive issues came to haunt India again

Defensive mistakes cost Indian dearly
Defensive mistakes cost Indian dearly

During the Stephen Constantine era, one major concern was how the defensive frailties would be solved. Constantine tried to play different combinations and though it yielded impressive results, but cracked at crucial times.

It was thought the Igor Stimac would focus on this aspect but after going through the 23-man Indian squad for the Kings Cup it was clear that he wants to play with fire. Only five defenders were selected in the squad, which included inexperienced Rahul Bheke and veteran Adil Khan.

His team selection against Curacao raised few eyebrows and at the end of the game the result justified it. India’s weak defence was exposed repeatedly by a more technically and physically strong Curacao side.

Rahul Bheke, who is a natural full-back, was played as a central defender and the Mumbaikar lost the plot time and again. He was often moving to the left side, leaving a large gap between him and Sandesh Jhingan.

It took 20 minutes for Curacao to unlock the Indian defence. Rolieny Bonevacia quickly got past his marker and scored with his first touch from Nepomuceno’s cross.

Without getting the time to settle down, India conceded again and this time, the whole Indian defence stood like a school team. Bheke and Jhinghan were nowhere near Elson Hooi, who easily got past Gurpreet Singh Sandhu to score the second.

The gap between the central defenders was opened up yet again just few moments after India reduced the margin. The miscommunication between Jhinghan and Bheke forced Pronay Halder to go deep and do the defensive job.

India were playing too defensive and paid the price.

Before next match, Stimac would surely go back to the drawing board and may bring Adil Khan to partner Jhinghan.

#2 Curacao’s impressive first half display settled the contest

Elson Hooi (Blue) scored the second goal of the match
Elson Hooi (Blue) scored the second goal of the match

It’s not that India have not played a technically stronger side than Curacao in recent times. The game against China or UAE would justify this. But Curacao are not only better technical quality, their players are far ahead in term of physical aspect.

For the first quarter of the game, Curacao maintained possession and kept waiting for their chance. The Indians were keeping their shape in defence and Curacao hardly got any chance to barge in. But when they unlocked the Indian defence, goals came flooding in.

In the second half, they were a bit uncomfortable probably because of the hot weather but still didn’t allow any more dangers in their own area.

Elson Hooi, Rolieny Bonevacia and Leandro Bacuna have the experience of playing in the foreign shores and incidentally, all three of them scored against India.

Being a Dutch colony for long time, they still have the Dutch flare in their style. One should know great Dutch footballer Patrick Kluivert was their coach until 2016 and he played the team the way his country is known to the world. New coach Remko Bicentini also kept the same style.

#1 Indian attacked lacked killer punch

Sahal Samad was impressive in his debut
Sahal Samad was impressive in his debut

It is a proven fact that India can play attacking football. They showed it multiple times. The most recent display was their first match in the Asian Cup against Thailand.

However, former coach Constantine always wanted to play safely and as a result, the team played in a defensive way in most of their matches.

It was thought Stimac would change the mindset but after the Curacao match, he has a lot of work to do. In the first half, India showed too much respect to their opponents and allowed them to dominate in their own half.

Sunil Chhetri, Lallianzuala Chhangte and Sahal Abdul Samad got one or two chances which they failed to make them count.

Two changes in the second half brought the game back in India’s favour. The introduction of Raynier Fernandes allowed Brandon Fernandes to operate from his familiar position. Also, Udanta Singh was more creative in the second half and threatened the Curacao defence quite a few times.

Sahal worked very hard on the midfield and it was him who earned the penalty in the first half. Two full-backs Subhasish Bose and Pritam also overlapped repeatedly and provided useful crosses.

However, India lacked the punch in the attacking that would’ve earned them a goal. Chhetri and Udana#ta got close a couple of time and the Indian captain even hit the post. Sadly, the scoreline remained the same.

Curacao players were visibly tired in the second half and that extra punch would’ve earned India at least one goal.

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Edited by Kingshuk Kusari
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