Know your opponent: What do Macau have in store for India in AFC Asian Cup qualifier
Deccan Chronicle| Soumo Ghosh
The Macau football team have been on a rebuilding ever since former manager Tam Lao San stepped down.
Macau have had their International Friendly against Malaysia cancelled last month due to Typhoon Hato, before being drubbed 4-0 by Hong Kong in another friendly last week. (Photo: Macau FA)
Mumbai: With two wins already in the bag, the Indian football team has taken a giant step towards ensuring qualification for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.
Over the years, the average Blue Tigers fan has been accustomed to the constant disappointments of capitulation against Asian giants, and near misses against the not so highly ranked opponents.
All that changed over the last year or so, however.
India’s shift in fortunes
Manager Stephen Constantine seems to have found the magic formula for Indian football; they have consistently churned out the results, climbing up the FIFA rankings to the top 100s for the first time in over two decades.
Their eight-match winning streak was only brought to a halt by St Kitts & Nevis, who scored a late goal to level things up in the second half, at the Andheri Sports Complex, in Mumbai, earlier this month; India, though, still managed to win the tournament.
The Tri-Nation Tournament served as a good opportunity for the Indians to prepare for the upcoming Asian qualifiers. Constantine himself had said after India’s win against Mauritius: "It all counts for nothing, if we don't qualify for the (2019 AFC) Asian Cup."
On the flip side, we see a Macau team that has had a terrible year, so far. Their record so far this year, does for some miserable reading; three matches played, three matches lost, zero goals scored and nine goals conceded.
As they prepare themselves for the clash at the Estadio Campo Desportivo or the Macau Olympic Complex, Macau face a team that not only tops Group A of the qualifiers, but have also won four out their five matches so far.
While India had a couple of games in the Tri-Nation tournament to prepare themselves for this clash, Macau have had their International Friendly against Malaysia cancelled last month due to Typhoon Hato, before being drubbed 4-0 by Hong Kong in another friendly last week.
Things look rather bleak for the home side, as they look to pull themselves out of this impasse, and score their first points in Group A so far.
The Macanese have been on a rebuilding ever since former manager Tam Lao San stepped down. At the moment, Macau Football Association director Chan Hiu Ming is in charge of the dressing room, performing dual responsibilities.
The Indians may be on strong form, but one area where the Macanese may have an upper hand the tactical mind with which they play their football. The 3-5-2 system that they often like to use has been a bit of a rage in Europe over the last few years, with the likes of Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola leading the cause for a three-man defensive system that allows their teams to play a free-flowing style of football.
India, who play the regular 4-4-2, could find themselves severely outnumbered on multiple areas of the pitch.
While the Indian forwards can enjoy a tussle against the two centrebacks in a regular back four, but the Macau defence, which is likely to comprise of Lei Ka Hou, Lei Ka Him and Choi Chan In, can always have one man extra, to pick up the lose balls, when long deliveries are played into their area.
To add to that, a five-man-midfield at the heart of which the likes of Kong Cheng, Edgar Teixeira and Chi Hang operate, is set to outnumber India’s central midfielders Rowllin Borges and Eugeneson Lyngdoh.
Similarly, India’s centrebacks Sandesh Jhingan and Anas Edathodika could also be under immense pressure from Niki Torrao and Leong Ka Hang.
The latter had earned the Macau Footballer of the Year award at the age of 18, six years back, and will be the Greens’ prime hope to get themselves out of the goal scoring rut. He has had tremendous success with the u-23 team, finding the back of the net five times in nine appearances.
This is the first time that the two nations are squaring off against each other, with the Macanese football experiencing some dark times a little more than a decade ago, when FIFA suspended their federation on grounds of excessive government interference.
Although India have not played a single game on the topmost rung of international football, the two sides did play an u-16 match 33 years back, a match that the then Indian colts won 13-0.