FIFA World Cup Qualifiers: Can India beat Iran
After successive defeats to Oman and Guam, India face an uphill task in theirFIFA World Cup Group D qualification campaign when they meet Asia’s strongest team Iran at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru on Tuesday.
Placed 40th in the FIFA rankings, Iran, who have qualified for four World Cup finals, including the 2014 edition in Brazil, will start out as overwhelming favourites against 155th ranked India who will be under pressure following the defeats to Oman and Guam, a tiny Pacific Oceanisland, by identical 2-1 margins.
Despite the brave words emanating from the Indian camp ahead of Tuesday’s game, it remains to be seen whether Stephen Constantine’s boys’ — led by Sunil Chhetri — will let their performance do the talking against a team that in all likelihood, will qualify for the 2018 finals in Russia.
Iran, after a tentative start that saw them draw 1-1 in Turkmenistan, were at full throttle against Guam in Tehran, where they pumped in six goals and conceded none.
The results have put Iran in the third spot in the group behind Oman and Guam (both of whom have six points), but with the best goal difference.
Constantine, who of late has been rather vocal in his criticism of the All India FootballFederation’s (AIFF) functioning vis-A-vis the Indian team’s preparations, has been trying out various players in a bid to arrive at the most effective combination.
Since he took charge as the national coach earlier this year, Constantine has fielded 15 debutants in four matches, but the results have been far from productive.
Chhetri dubbed Tuesday’s game as one of the “biggest matches” for him and felt that it would be a difficult game for India.
“This is the toughest game of my career. In the last 10 years, this is my second opportunity to play Iran. It is that opportunity that the boys should take. This is an opportunity to show how much we have improved. We are relishing it.
“We all know who we are playing tomorrow. Iran are 40th in the World and the best team in Asia. The most important thing is to understand what we have trained and how we have trained.
“It’s always difficult to play exactly the way you want when you play such high ranked team. We need to be fit and do our best,” said Chhetri.
Constantine said,”Iran are one of the best sides in Asia. They are where they are because of the things they have done in the past and are doing it even presently.
“There is a great deal of respect for Iran, but don’t mistake that for fear. It’s 11 vs 11 on the field. If we work hard, there is a chance that we can take something from this game and I believe we can.”
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Head to head
Forget Russia, target UAE
India are bottom of Group D. With two games against Iran and one away tie against Oman remaining, their chances of finishing in top three are fairly remote. However, the team’s bigger incentive could be securing a place in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup in UAE that will feature 24 teams for the first time, an increase of 8 from its last edition. A fourth place finish could help India enter third round of Asian Cup qualification by virtue of finishing among the four best group fourth-placed teams
credit : dnaindia