After a long hiatus of over 492 days, India restart their preparations for the upcoming 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup qualifiers with back-to-back international friendlies in Dubai. Igor Stimac’s men managed an impressive 1-1 draw against Oman on Thursday at the Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai.
The action now shifts to Monday night, as the Blue Tigers face the hosts UAE. The young Indian team will be eager to prove its mettle on the international stage while UAE look to strengthen their squad combination to earn a spot in the World Cup.
Here’s our preview of Monday’s international friendly fixture between India and the United Arab Emirates:
India rallied from a goal down to level the match 1-1 against Oman on Thursday. India’s chances to enter the 2022 World Cup have dwindled to almost nil, but Igor Stimac will be keen to strengthen the team for their June qualifiers as they try to reach the 2023 AFC Asian Cup. The results have been mixed for the Blue Tigers under Igor Stimac; they have won only one out of 11 matches under his charge. The Croatian is thus keen to get fresh faces into his team, relying more on the recent form of the players rather than their experience.
Indian head coach Igor Stimac handed debuts to 10 young players, with eight of them taking the field on Thursday. The average age of the squad is 24, with more than half the team being under 25. The selection of these fresh young faces is largely based on their performance in the Indian Super League, as coach Igor Stimac looks to build a team that can win matches consistently on the world stage.
India’s talisman of the game, Sunil Chhetri, will miss the game against UAE, as the 36-year-old legend of the game is recovering from Covid-19. In his absence, the leadership of the team falls on the experienced Sandesh Jhingan, who led the team on Thursday night. Full-backs Ashutosh Mehta and Akash Mishra, centre-back Chinglensana, midfielders Jeakson Singh, Suresh Singh and winger Bipin Singh impressed with their debuts against Oman, and they will likely earn a spot in the starting XI on Monday.
India Squad: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Amrinder Singh, Subhashish Roy Chowdhury, Dheeraj Singh, Ashutosh Mehta, Akash Mishra, Pritam Kotal, Sandesh Jhingan, Chinglensana Singh, Adil Khan, Mandar Rao Dessai, Mashoor Shereef, Rowllin Borges, Lalengmawia, Jeakson Singh, Raynier Fernandes, Anirudh Thapa, Bipin Singh, Yasir Mohammad, Suresh Singh, Halicharan Narzary, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Ashique Kuruniyan, Manvir Singh, Ishan Pandita, Hitesh Sharma, Liston Colaco.
Since Bert van Marwijk’s appointment as head coach in March 2019, the Whites have performed well on the international stage. At the 24th Arabian Gulf Cup held in 2019, when they registered a 3-0 victory over Yemen before succumbing to Iraq and Qatar in back-to-back losses.
The Whites managed to hold Iraq to a goalless draw in January and will be counting on defeating a much-weaker Indian team to turn around their fortunes. The Whites are fourth in Group G with six points from four games in the joint qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup and the 2023 Asian Cup.
Midfielders Abdullah Al-Naqbi and Caio Canedo have been ruled out of the fixture with injuries.
UAE Squad: Ali Khasif, Khaled Issa, Mohammed Al Shamsi, Fahd Al Dhanhani, Bandar Al-Ahbabi, Shaheen Abdel-Rahman, Walid Abbas, Mahmoud Khamis, Khalifa Al-Hammadi, Hassan Al-Mahrami, Al-Hassan Saleh, Salem Rashid, Mohamed Al-Attas, Ali Salmeen, Yahya Nader, Abdullah Ramadan, Majed Hassan, Fabio de Lima, Khalfan Mubarak, Khalil Al Hammadi, Tahnoun Al Zaabi, Ali Saleh, Suhail Al Noubi, Ali Mabkhout, Sebastian Tigali, Zayed Al Ameri.
HEAD TO HEAD
India are currently ranked 104th in the world, while UAE are ranked significantly higher at 74th. India and UAE have played 14 fixtures so far, and the head-to-head is overwhelmingly in favour of Al Abyad. The Whites have beaten the Blue Tigers nine times and held them to a draw on three occasions, scoring 26 times overall. India have been able to manage just two wins, with seven goals.
The most recent meeting between the two teams was two years ago – in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, where the Whites thrashed India 2-0. The last time India won a fixture against UAE was in a World Cup qualifier in 2002.
WHAT TO EXPECT
The Blue Tigers have failed to win an international fixture since June 2019, extending their winless streak to nine matches. The Whites haven’t fared any better – they have won just two of their last nine encounters. For Igor Stimac, this Indian team starts from a clean slate, and his starting XI on Thursday showed that the Croatian is not afraid to take risks while building up his squad for the upcoming qualifiers. India are definitely the weaker side, but a fresh squad full of energy to prove themselves will make it an exciting and close encounter to watch.
When: Monday, 29 March 2021, 8:15 PM IST
Where: Zabeel Stadium, Dubai
Where to Watch: India vs UAE International Friendly will be streamed live on Eurosport and Eurosport HD channels. The game can be streamed live for free on JioTV.