India were on the receiving end of two back-to-back defeats in the recently-concluded international friendlies in Bahrain. Igor Stimac’s team were without a few key players who were either injured or are involved with Hero ISL club Mumbai City FC in their AFC Champions League campaign.
These two international friendlies were scheduled against hosts Bahrain and Belarus, both teams that are ranked higher than the Indian team in the FIFA World Rankings. These were the perfect kickstart to what can be an intense campaign coming up later in the year. So what were the major learnings from these two international friendlies?
Here’s our list of four things that stood out.
CREATING CHANCES FROM OPEN PLAY STILL AN ISSUE
One of the biggest issues that has been hindering the progress under coach Stimac has been the ability to create chances from open play. The team’s biggest attacking threat has always been set-pieces. But with constant chopping and changing in the squad, the team hasn’t been able to understand the strengths of each player in the final third of the pitch. This was majorly highlighted in these two defeats in the international friendlies.
If India are to make an impression in the AFC Asian Cup in 2023 then this is an aspect of their game that needs instant improvement.
PROMISING PLAYERS GOT A TASTE OF INTERNATIONAL FOOTBALL
With plenty of players unavailable for these international friendlies, it provided a wonderful opportunity for the young ones who were coming after a strong Hero ISL campaign. They were getting tested against teams that have more quality than this Indian side.
Players like Roshan Singh, Danish Farooq, Aniket Jadhav, Hormipam Ruivah, Anwar Ali and VP Sohair made their international debuts in over 180 minutes in these two games. Some of them impressed while for some it felt like a step too far being thrown into international football.
This exposure would help both the players and the coaching staff going forward.
NEED MORE PATTERNS OF PLAY IN THE FINAL THIRD
To solve the issue of creating chances from open play, the team needs to have set patterns of attacking play in the final third. In these two recently-concluded international friendlies, we saw moments where a better pass option in the final third could have made an opening. This won’t happen until the coach finds a group of players he trusts and picks in the XI regularly.
The only way to create more chances is to have set patterns of attacking play in training sessions where each forward knows the off the ball running pattern of the other players.
CLEAR GAMEPLAN BY STIMAC
The team’s biggest strength in its attacking play is the raw speed of these forwards. To maximise the use of this strength, Stimac has a clear plan of having either a mid or low block against teams that are calmer than India on the ball and hit these teams on the counter-attack.
The idea is to keep things compact defensively and not press high up the pitch to leave holes in the middle of the park for the opposition to exploit. Rather a mid-block gives them defensive solidity and can hurt the opposition with the speed of the forwards on the counter-attack.
The game plan is a pragmatic one but so far hasn’t paid dividends for the team.
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