Bengaluru: On paper, India’s Group D World Cup qualifier against Iran at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Tuesday fits the David versus Goliath mould. The away side are the highest ranked Asian team and have four World Cup finals appearances. The most recent one saw them put up an impressive performance only to be outdone by some late magic from a certain Lionel Messi, underlining their superiority as opposed to the home side, who are still trying to find any level of sustained success.
Neither side have made a rampant start to their campaign with India having lost both their ties and the away side being held to an unprecedented draw by Turkmenistan in their opening fixture before bouncing back by thrashing Guam 6-0.
For the Blue Tigers, to get anything from the match will be a positive and having yet to open their points tally, have their backs to the wall. The constant chopping and changing of the team — as evidenced by 15 players making their India debuts in the last five matches — by coach Stephen Constantine in his efforts to find his best XI has also not made matters easier.
His counterpart, Carlos Querioz, on the other hand, has a more settled side as he has managed to integrate new blood with more success while also keeping the old guard together.
Sandesh Jhighan’s return to the heart of the defence after missing the previous qualifiers will be a boost for India and the youngster will have to be at his best to restrict Iran’s Sardar
Azmoun and Mehdi Torabi who are capable of tearing their opponents to shreds with their well coordinated movements.
With India likely to be chasing the ball for prolonged periods of time, the team’s defensive shape and pressing will be key. Eugeneson Lyngdoh, when on the ball, will have to make his passes count to release Sunil Chhetri, Robin Singh or Jackichand Singh — who all are all certain to start up front — behind the defence led by Jalal Hosseini....