India secured a point against Myanmar to book their place in the knockout stages of the Asian Games 2023 on Sunday. Sunil Chhetri found the net in the first half, but Myanmar's Yan Kyaw Htwe leveled the score in the second period.
Indian head coach Igor Stimac, who faced considerable turmoil regarding squad selection and had no training sessions ahead of the tournament, will certainly be satisfied with the result.
The campaign didn't start favorably for the Blue Tigers as they suffered a comprehensive 1-5 defeat to China. However, the collective efforts of players and coaching staff paid off, leading to four points in the next two games and a spot in the round of 16 for the first time in 13 years.
Sunil Chhetri continued to be a key contributor, converting a first-half penalty. Notable defensive performances by the likes of Sandesh Jhingan, Chinglensana Singh, and Narender Gahlot also played a pivotal role in the turnaround.
Indian football enthusiasts back home have a reason to celebrate, particularly considering the uncertainties surrounding the team's preparation and arrival in China just one day before the competition commenced. Under Chhetri's leadership, the Blue Tigers addressed questions despite not hitting their full potential.
Fans voiced their appreciation for the team on social media and celebrated what is certainly a significant outcome for India considering the circumstances.
Here are some reactions:
Despite the favorable results, some supporters expressed concerns about the team's performance. They noted that India has only managed to score once from open play.
As India prepares to take on Saudi Arabia in the next round, there is a sense of unease among fans regarding the team's overall level shown in the competition so far.
Here are some reactions:
India’s youngsters step up but Sunil Chhetri remains their go-to player
While this is by no means India’s first-choice squad, the Blue Tigers certainly had talented players at their disposal, and they have certainly stepped up in the last two games.
Starting from the defense, Lalchungunga and Narender Gahlot were brilliant, and Abdul Rabeeh's adaptation to an unconventional right-back role proved highly successful.
In the midfield, Amarjit Singh Kiyam has evolved into a mainstay in the team, while Rahul KP, the scorer of India's first goal in the Asian Games, improved the team's attacking display.
Noteworthy contributions from Bryce Miranda, Samuel Kynshi, and Vincy Barretto also played a pivotal role in securing four points.
The combination of emerging talents and senior players stepping up will undoubtedly leave head coach Igor Stimac satisfied with India's ability to grind out results—a crucial asset as the tournament progresses into the knockout rounds.