Bengaluru: With virtually no chance in advancing to the next round of the World Cup qualifiers after a poor record of five straight defeats in their campaign, India will look to get the first win under their belt when they take on Guam at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium, here on Thursday. Having gone down to the Pacific Island side in the away leg, India will have to put on a much improved show if they are to take points off their opponents, who have been labeled the favourites by the Indian coach Stephan Constantine.
Guam, with a second place finish still within reach, will look to keep the dream alive and a win will be of paramount importance. With an outside chance still remaining for the hosts to make it to the Asian Cup playoffs, anything less than a win will be a catastrophic result.
“It’s a game that we have to win. We had said from the beginning that we will try to win the home games and this is another opportunity to do that, so everything to gain,” said Constantine on the eve of the match. “If we win tomorrow, we give ourselves a chance to go into the playoffs. That’s what we will try to do.” But the task will not be an easy one and captain Sunil Chhetri believes this match will a lot different from the previous encounter.
“I don’t think we did as well as we should have against Guam. This time it will be different. I can’t tell that we will win but we will definitely give everything we have,” said the striker. With Constantine yet to find a settled side, there might be some changes in the squad but it would be safe to say that the bulk of the scoring responsibility will lie on the shoulders of Chhetri and Robin Singh, It sets the tone for an interesting tussle with Guam’s star defender AJ DeLaGarza, and Eugeneson Lyngdoh will be tasked to run the midfield with Sehnaj Singh sitting ahead of the defence.
In defence, much will rely on Arnab Mondal and Sandesh Jhingan’s ability to read the movements of the attackers and quell the threat. The fact that Guam has failed to find the net in their last three outings will be good tidings for India. Meanwhile, Guam coach Gary White made it clear of his team’s desire. “We have only one thing in mind. That is to win the game. We need to get the three points and qualify for the next round. That’s been our goal form the beginning. That’s what we’ll go out to do. It won’t be easy, but we have a job to do here,” he stressed.
With rains lashing the city and more on forecast for Thursday, the wet and slippery pitch, which could help the ball along faster, might just have a part to play in the result.
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