Depleted India take on defending champions Iran tomorrow
Doha, Dec 5 (UNI) For a depleted India, without star striker and skipper Bhaichung Bhutia, it will be tough but not improbable to beat defending champions Iran in their last league match of the football competition at the Asian Games here tomorrow.
Iran has won both their matches -- against Maldives (3-1) and Hong Kong (2-1) -- while India has drawn with Hong Kong (1-1) and beaten Maldives (2-1).
So on paper there is not much of a difference between the two team's showing in the tournament but without Bhutia, who has received two yellow cards and will not play tomorrow, the challenge is tough for the Indians as their attack will lack the punch and penetration.
Bhutia was instrumental in two of the three goals India scored in the last two matches and now the other forwards will have to cope up with the task.
Iran are not looking as dominant as they used to be, atleast that is the impression they have left after two matches, while Indians have given improved performances in both their matches.
Against much higher ranked Hong Kong, India had to share points because of a defensive lapse in the injury time and against Maldives also it was good team work.
Indian coach Bob Houghton likes a 2-4-4 formation and has a choice to pick up from Chitrasen Chandam, Syed Rahim Nabi and Sushil Kumar Singh to play in place of Bhutia.
The Indian midfielders -- Steven Dias, Bungo Singh, Gourmangi Singh and Climax Lawrance -- have given good displays so far. They have combined well and have got good support from N Pradeep and Surkumar Singh.
Pradeep has also shown the guiles and guts to cut through the rival territory with some powerful long rangers.
The Indians need to exert pressure on Iran. The defensive tactics are likely to boomerang because once the Iranians get possession of midfield it will be very difficult to dislodge them.
The defending champions, who were expelled from the tournament and then allowed to take part in it by the world body FIFA, do not look like a very cohesive unit. They have struggled to get past lower ranked teams and their attack lacks sharpness.
Will the Indians be able to match the Iranian tough tackling, only time will tell but it is sure that if the Indian midfielders combine well and keep on attacking, the Iranians may find the going tough.
Manjit has played well along with Bhutia but he will now have to adjust with a new partner in the attacking line. The Indian defence has shown signs of panic when under pressure and this is one area they will have to improve.
Sandip Nandy, under the bar, has done a commendable job so far while N Manju, Debabrata Roy and Habibur Rehman have been a bit tentative in defence.
Iran will depend heavily on Mazyer Eshghdoost and Arash Borhani while their other attackers Mehrdad Oladi and Mohammed Nori will also be a consistent threat.
The Iranian defense has panicked under pressure and the Indians should exploit that with consistent attacks from side. Attack will help India in this crunch match defensive tactics will lead them nowhere.
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