Category Archives: International

Why the revamped AFC Cup format is a raw deal for India

AFC Cup, 2017, India, South Asia, West Zone, ASEAN Zone, Bengaluru FC, Mohun Bagan, East Bengal, New Format

 

Guru Prasad, a football enthusiast from Bengaluru takes a closer look at the new format of AFC Cup.

 

You can follow him on twitter here.

When AFC came out with a new format for the AFC Cup, there were some reports in the media about how the revamped format will be beneficial for Indian clubs participating in the continental championship. However, a closer look at the revamped format reveals that instead of it being beneficial for our clubs, it could turn out to be detrimental for them and in turn it could also take a hit on the member association (MA rankings) for India. MA rankings are used by AFC to determine the number of slots a country gets in the continental championships, the AFC Cup and the AFC Champions league.

First let us take a look at the new format. Starting from 2017,  instead of the two zones, clubs are going to be divided into five zones –  West Asia, Central Asia, South Asia, East Asia and ASEAN. A total of 36 clubs will be competing from these zones. Each zones are allocated teams through direct slots and through play offs.  Slot allocation for the five zones are as follows:

West Asia Zone : 9 direct/3 from play-offs = 12 teams (Three groups)

ASEAN Zone : 9 direct/3 from play-offs = 12 teams (Three groups)

Central Asia Zone : 3 direct/1 from play-offs = 4 teams (One group)

East Asia Zone : 3 direct/1 from play-offs = 4 teams (One group)

South Asia Zone : 3 direct/1 from play-offs = 4 teams (One group)

As you can see all South Asian teams comes under one group. That means, Bengaluru FC (should they drop-down to AFC Cup without reaching the group stages of AFC Champions League), will be joined by Maziya from Maldives and Abhani Limited of Bangladesh. The fourth spot in the group will be taken by the winners of the play-off round in South Asia.

This is how the play off round for the south Asia looks like :AFC Cup, 2017, AFC, South Asia, Mohun Bagan, Thimpu FC, Bhutan, Football, Asia, Colombo FC, Sri Lanka,

Federation Cup winners Mohun Bagan will have to play two matches against South Asian teams to even reach the group stage of the competition (No MA points are accrued for prelims and Play-off matches). Now, compare this with the AFC Cup format of 2016, where both teams from India – Mohun Bagan and Bengaluru FC were placed in two different groups (Group G & H)and had a chance to go further in the competition. Whereas in 2017 they will be fighting with each other in the same group, if Bagan qualify for the group stages. And only one team, that is either Bengaluru FC or Mohun Bagan will be progressing to the further stages of the competition.

Now take a look at the West Asian Zone, they have 3 groups in the zone and the teams are dispersed in these groups. For example, Air Force Club of Iraq who were the 2016 AFC Cup champions after defeating  Bengaluru FC is placed in Group B of West Zone and Al Zawraa another club from Iraq is placed in Group A, offering the two teams a chance to progress further in the tournament. ASEAN zone is another one with an unfair advantage over others. ASEAN zone has 3 groups and teams from these countries are dispersed among these groups. AFC cup 2016 semi finalists Johor Darul Ta’zim is in Group F of the competition, whereas another Malaysian team Felda United is placed in Group G. The only thing good coming out of this format revamp is that there will be representation from more countries in AFC Cup and probably lesser miles traveled by teams to play the away matches.

The MA ranking conundrum

With the new  format in place, the MA rankings of India could take hit too. Lets us take a look.

if 2 or more teams participate from the same MA, then their points get averaged out and if one team is good but others are not good, then the points gained by MA is not good (e.g. For Malaysia, last year where JDT reached semifinal, but other team crashed out of group stage taking their points gained only to 7.167), this is a shortcoming in AFC’s points calculation mechanism. And it gives advantage to the MA from where only one team is participating and if the participating team performs well in the competition, then MA points gained will be very good. Where as for MAs with more teams, this method proves to be disadvantageous. Because, if MAs with one or more teams participating, then all the teams must perform very well to gain more points, like the case with India last year).

But this year’s format of AFC Cup has aggravated the situation for top MAs in south, central and East zone (with India and Tajikistan being the biggest losers), as one team from one MA will not advance out of group stage, hence points gained will be low for an MA with 2 teams. In addition, AFC cup points only account for 1/3rd that of ACL games. This means India is the biggest loser in this case (If BFC doesn’t go to the group stage of ACL and perform well there) there will be no chance for India to break in to the Top 6 MAs in the region before 2017 November whose rankings will be counted for slot allocations of 2019 and 2020. So, AFC is trying to preserve status quo in ACL slot allocations and West and ASEAN zone in AFC cup and prevent new MAs being represented in ACL. Although not apparent unless you read between the lines and dig deeper on the new format. As per the new format, as a country it is advantageous for us only if one club makes it to the group stage of the tournament. If two of them make it to the group stage, it would be detrimental for our MA rankings. A real catch-22 situation for us!

Also noticeable is that ASEAN and West Asian teams that qualify for further stages play 4 and 2 more games respectively than the rest, if the points accrued in these extra matches also count (zonal Semifinals and zonal finals) then all the other zones are at a serious disadvantage.

This is where it gets utterly tricky for India, if Bengaluru FC doesn’t qualify for ACL and at least doesn’t get till Quarterfinals (pray to god for some miracle!!), then the next window of opportunity for substantial increase in MA rankings and better slot allocation comes only in 2020 whose ranking will probably be counted for 2021 allocations and there is a plan to count only club performance for that, at the moment we can’t say for sure if that it will be beneficial to India as there are countries where National team is below par, but clubs do extremely well.

Status Quoist AFC?

Its looks like AFC isn’t an exception in trying to maintain status quo, there are many world sporting bodies like UEFA (who are trying to change UCL structure to give unusual preference to top MAs), ICC (The Big three control the revenue and administration preventing smaller cricketing nations a greater share of revenue and associate nations with remote chance of playing test matches)etc, and Indian football in tatters due to ongoing restructuring and shutting shops of old clubs also doesn’t help. And AFC being status quoist that it is, Clubs can’t expect too much help from them in the current crisis.

On the whole, the revamped format of the AFC Cup along with the current method of MA ranking calculation, it is quite obvious that India has got a raw deal with the recent format revamp of the AFC Cup. Despite all the challenges our clubs have been facing on the domestic front, performances on the continental level in the AFC Cup has been quite decent from our clubs. This revamp of the competition format is going to cripple our progress in terms of MA rankings and our quest for a direct slot in the AFC champions League. Although Some may say It is too soon to dream about direct slot in ACL, we never know until we are tested rigorously and only then do we have a chance to Improve ourselves.

AFC Cup 2016 Final – Know thy opponent : Through the words of an Iraqi Football expert

Air Force Club, JSW, Bengaluru FC, Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya, AFC Cup, 2016, Doha, Qatar, Sunil Chhetri, Hammadi, Star Sports, Football, Indian Football, Soccer, IraqThe big day is here. It is a momentous occasion for Indian Football as Bengaluru FC takes on Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya or the Air Force Club of Iraq as they are known in the AFC Cup 2016 final. Since there was a dearth of information on today’s opponent, I decided to get in touch with an Iraqi football expert to know more about Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya. I asked a few questions to football writer Hassanin Mubarak and here are his replies. Read on!

What’s is Air Force Club’s style of play?

Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya are an attacking side playing two forward up-front, with Hamadi Ahmed and the returning Amjad Radhi, one of the most prolific strikers in the Iraqi league in current times who is attempting to regain his old form. The little and large combination of Hamadi and Amjad were once the best two front-pairing in Iraq until Amjad left for Arbil in 2010. The striker wearing the No.40 for Al-Jawiya was top scorer in this tournament in 2012 with 9 goals. Amjad has spent the last couple of seasons in Saudi Arabia and Egypt without much success and while he was Al-Jawiya’s main forward during his last spell at the club, Hamadi has now taken on that mantle with Amjad being the second striker. Basim Qasim also has Emad Muhsin if needed. Al-Jawiya’s goals will depend a lot on the ability of the wide-men to create in the final third, the hopes of victory will rest heavily on the shoulders of Humam Tariq and 15-goal hit man Hamadi Ahmed.

Their Strong points and weakness according to you?

Al-Jawiya relies a great deal on the presence of Hamadi Ahmed, their main goalscorer and attacking threat. The new coach Basim Qasim appointed in the summer has not changed either the style or team formation since taking charge, however, they have proved to be resilient under the former Police Lieutenant and are unbeaten in the first six games under him. Basim Qasim will, however, have to reshuffle the ranks with the absence of center back Samal Saeed and winger Bashar Resan, two key players who will be suspended for the final. Bashar will be a significant loss, with the team balance on the wings with Humam Tariq on the opposite flank interrupted, with both players having the talent to switch flanks throughout matches. While Basim Qasim has a ready-made replacement for Samal Saeed, in Saad Natiq, however the coach does not have that luxury with a replacement for Bashar. One solution would be to start Hulgard Mulla Mohammed, the brother of the retired wing wizard Hawar. He is a different proposition for defenders compared to the pacy and tricky Bashar Resan. Hulgard does not possess the speed he once had but the versatile two-footed attacking midfielder can play on the wings or in central midfield. But the absence of Bashar will be a substantial miss for Al-Jawiya.

Are they going to play the same way in the final or are you expecting a cagey game from them? Who are all the players to watch out?

I expect Al-Jawiya will play their usual game in Doha and go out and score goals. It could be a cagey and cautious final if the game remains goalless. The key players will be Humam Tariq out on the wings and Hamadi Ahmed, they could be the winning formula for Al-Jawiya.

Are you expecting to see a lot of fans in Doha supporting the Air Force club?

There won’t be many Iraqi fans traveling and a majority of the supporting contingent will be expatriates living in the tiny Gulf state.

What’s the talk among the Iraqi football fans about Bengaluru FC?

Little is known about Bengaluru FC among both the Iraqi fans and the Al-Jawiya players but with both teams in a final, the opposition will be respected. 23 years ago Al-Zawraa, one of the most successful clubs in Iraqi football history were humiliated 6-2 by the East Bengal Club so Iraqis will be wary of this very fact.

Follow Hassanin Mubarak on Twitter here.

You can read his extensive preview of Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya here.

Bengaluru FC, The history Makers

Bengaluru FC, CK Vineeth, Football, Bengaluru, Bangalore, Bengaluru FC, Indian Football, AFC Cup, Johor Darul Taksim, Malaysia

Pic Credit : JSW Media

Fans were cheering and dressed in blue as the teams walked into the stadium. Albert Roca’s men dressed in blue (home jersey) and the Malaysian side were in their red shirts.A goalless draw would take the home team to the finals. The Malaysian side have never lost to the Indian side in their 4 meetings against them , BFC managed to walk home with a draw in their last meeting.
Peeeep!!! The match started with Bengaluru driving forward , the home advantage has given the blue’s much needed confidence. Blues dominated  the field as Rino Anto troubled the JDT defense with his quality crosses . Both teams played good football , it was a delight to watch both the sides attacking each others goal .Against the run of play the visitors pierced Bengaluru’s net in the 11th minute through their captain,  Safiq Rahim as he scored from the close range.

The goal certainly  made the home team restless as they looked dangerous at the opponent half . They had chances to score the equaliser , but the home team was more interested in wasting the chances rather than scoring from it. On the other hand Roca’s men in  looked dangerous on the break ,but their efforts lacked quality to test the keeper. Bengaluru was desperate to make the score level before the break and their moment came in the 40th minute as the captain Sunil Chhetri headed home the equaliser from Eugenson Lyngdoh’s corner. There were some odd efforts on either ends but the efforts were not enough to break the deadlock. As referee pointed to the half time scores were equal.

The second half began with the same intensity but this time the away team were dominating the field with their possession and their team play , as they were closing down too quickly on BFC players.JDT  made the first substitution of the match and were  bossing the midfield areas .Meanwhile home team looked  dangerous on break and they got in front in the 66th minute . The captain stepped up again , Chhetri scored a 30 yard stunner from outside the box with his right foot . Few minutes later Bengaluru side extended their lead through Juan Antonio as he headed home the 3rd goal from a typical Eugenson Lyngdoh’s freekick. JDT put their bodies forward to make a come back but the home teams defense stood as rock. All the attacks by the away team was knocked off by the Bangaluru defense.Referee signaled the end of the match after a tough 90 minutes and the stadium erupted.

A Historic achievement , Bengaluru FC has made it to the finals of AFC cup, Proud moment for Indian football .The Iraqi Air force Club awaits them in the finals.Surely the newbie of Indian football made us proud.

Match Report by Jithin Baby. Follow his blog here : https://jithinbabymulackampilly.wordpress.com

Aston Villa to open academy in India

Aston Villa, Football, Soccer, India, Government, artificial turf, academy, grass roots, indian super league, Vijay Goel, Prakesh JavedekarAston Villa’s new owner Tony Xia was in India, meeting government officials to discuss the possibility of setting up an academy and engage with Indian Super League clubs.

Yesterday, the club announced their plans to set up an academy and seek opportunities to tie-up with Indian Super league clubs. The club website said after meeting with Minister of Sports Vijay Goel and the Minister of Education Prakesh Javedekar, Aston Villa will be appointed as an advisor on football. The sport is a part of the national curriculum for Indian state schools.

Villa’s new academy will come up in New Delhi on a property provided by the Municipal Council. The new academy will have state-of-the-art facilities, including an artificial turf.

The report also mentions about a possible tie-up with an Indian Super League side.

Aston Villa Chairman Tony Xia was quoted as saying :

“Aston Villa Football Club, one of the most successful football clubs in the history of English football, plans to expand globally and India is one of the countries where Aston Villa not only wants to have an Indian Super League club but also open football academies all over India!”

Former Barcelona assistant manager Albert Roca roped in as coach by Bengaluru FC

Barcelona, Albert Roca, Bengaluru FC , I-league, football, India, Catalonia Former Barcelona Assistant Signs Two-Year Deal With Indian Champions; AFC Cup Quarterfinal Will Be Roca’s First Game In Charge

Bengaluru: Bengaluru FC are delighted to announce the appointment of Albert Roca as the club’s new coach. The 53-year-old Spaniard has signed a two-year deal that keeps him with the Blues till the end of the 2017-18 season.

Roca brings with him a wealth of coaching experience at the highest level having served as an assistant to Frank Rijkaard for five seasons at Barcelona (2003-2008) during which the Catalans won the Champions League once, the La Liga twice and the Spanish Super Cup twice before following the Dutchman in the same role to Turkish club Galatasaray (2009-2010) and finally the Saudi Arabian national team (2011-2013). Roca’s last job was as manager of the El Salvador national team where he was in charge for a year.

As a player, Roca’s most notable stints were with Real Zaragoza and CE Sabadell FC in the La Liga apart from shifts with a number of clubs in the second division.

“We are very excited to announce Albert Roca as the new coach of Bengaluru FC. He is, what I would call, a major signing at the club.  Albert has been with some of the best clubs in Europe as well as spent time in developing countries because of which he will have a great sense of the challenges India would bring,” said Parth Jindal, CEO, Bengaluru FC.

“We have had a very successful three years and Albert is only going to compound the efforts we have been making. He has also done some commendable work with young players in his career and that is absolutely in line with the philosophy of BFC where we are trying to develop players into stellar talent for the future,” he added.

Roca, a resident of Grannolers in Catalonia near Barcelona, said he was excited at the prospect of joining the Blues and was confident about playing the kind of football that the club and the supporters would be proud of.

“I’m very satisfied to have signed with Bengaluru FC. They are the champions of India, have fantastic supporters and most importantly, have a great support system and a management that is always hands on and wants to stay at the top. I want to assure our supporters that we will always give it our best. I want the supporters to be happy about the way we play,” said Roca.

Roca’s first game in charge will be the AFC Cup quarterfinal against Singapore side Tampines Rovers in September; a game he reckons will be a tough challenge. “The AFC Cup quarterfinal is definitely going to be a big challenge but we will do our best to get a good result and make the semis,” he said.

The Blues coach is expected to land in Bengaluru in the fourth week of July.

 

Ayeyawady’s Match-fixing Saga : The Breaking News that I Couldn’t Break!

Perks and dilemma of being an Indian football influencer.

Ayeyawady, Football, Myanmar, League, AFC Cup, Match Fixing, BettingThe latest news from Myanmar is that Ayeyawady United  is under the scanner from authorities over match fixing. A report that has appeared in Myanmar Times have revealed that a club official, along with some players fixed a few of their matches in Myanmar league, and also an AFC cup match. We are not yet sure of which AFC cup match of Ayeyawady was fixed, it will only be revealed after investigations are completed by the Myanmar league and the club itself. In AFC Cup, Ayeyawady was in a group comprising of Bengaluru FC, Johor from Malaysia and Lao Toyota FC from Laos.

It is being reported that an anonymous complaint has been filed with the Myanmar league authorities, involving officials and players of club. Ayeyawady had contrasting fortunes in the AFC Cup group stage as they got thorough drubbings at the hands of Johor (8-1) and Bengaluru FC (5-3) in their away matches. The home leg matches were also defeats, but the margin was less as they went down 0-1 to Bengaluru FC and 1-2 to Johor. They also managed two wins against the Laos side Lao Toyota FC.

On April 13th, when Bengaluru FC played Ayeyawady at home, and defeated them 5-3, I was quite elated. But suddenly, my sense of elation turned into a sense of concern, as an unknown twitter handle claimed that the match was probably fixed. It was a  commendable performance from BFC and all of a sudden when I got to hear this, it made me a bit upset. I started digging deeper to get more information on this.

Ayeyawady, Football, Myanmar, League, AFC Cup, Match Fixing, Betting

In no time, I followed the handle that broke this news and discussed why he thought that the match was fixed. This person, who introduced himself as a professional gambler from UK, explained why he thought the BFC vs Ayeyawady match was probably fixed and this is why he thought so.

Basically the odds in play were not moving naturally all game. Everything was almost over in the match and Bengaluru was getting hit constantly. Even with 2 minutes to go, the odds were so so short. The odds should be going the other way when the game is nearly over etc. Nearly every round of AFC cup games, a team will be fixing.

He went on to claim that it is pretty common for teams from Myanmar and Laos to indulge in match fixing.

Usually a Myanmar side or Laos side. Even happening in world cup qualifying games in Asia too. FIFA/AFC seem to take a blind eye towards it. I’m a professional gambler so it’s very easy for me to read the odds in Asian betting markets to see a game that looks dodgy.

…And was quick to point out that so far he has not seen an Indian team involving in fixing and gave a clean chit to our football.

For Bengaluru the prices were so much lower than what they should be. The defending for the goals back it up too. But yeah anyway the good news is that i’ve not seen an indian team fix this year so i’m pretty certain your football is clean.

We still don’t know if the match involving Bengaluru FC was fixed or not. But it was very surprising for me to see a report pop up this week – JDT’s AFC Cup opponent Ayeyawady face match-fixing investigation. Betting is not a silly issue, that I could go public without some credible evidence. So I kept it to myself, and later shared my concerns with some close friends who actively track Indian Football. They did not express any surprise either after hearing the news.

Betting is a dicey issue and it probably happens a lot in Asian football. Many reports claim that there are many betting cartels active in Asia. The recent inclusion of Justice Mudgal in FIFA’s governance committee is definitely a step by FIFA to utilize his expertise in understanding these networks that operate in Asia, especially South Asia. Justice Mudgal was appointed by the Indian Supreme Court as part of a three-member committee that led the inquiry in the IPL betting and spot fixing case.

Afterthought: There are no considerable rewards for running an Indian Football news Twitter handle, except having some followers among fans, players, officials and journalists, who are connected with and are passionate about the sport. But the real joy is when you get trinkets of information such as this alert on match fixing, which later gets substantiated. Call it a dilemma or a joy – these are definitely perks of being an Indian Football Influencer.

FC MIDTJYLLAND to select kids for 2 months training stint in Denmark

FC MIDTJYLLAND, Football, Soccer, training, Kids, Bangalore, Denmark, Danish Superliga

April 11, 2016: FC Midtjylland, the prevailing Champions of Danish Superliga, will be conducting an Intensive Football Training Program in Denmark for talented kids aged 12-14 from India. This will be a residential program for 2 months during June & July and will be managed by the Coaches of FC Midtjylland Football Academy, considered to be the best football Academy in Northern Europe.

The Program includes intensive training of 3 hours/day for 4 days in a week with match day over the weekend. Physical strengthening and video analysis sessions are part of the Program.

The Bangalore Selection Camp for the Program will be on 16th April 2016 at Play Arena on Sarjapur Road from 8.30 am onwards. Registrations can be done over mail at fcmindiatrainingprogram@gmail.com or over phone at +91 73495 24234.

PDC Services Pvt Ltd & New World Consulting are managing the Program for FCM.

We have designed this Program to offer a firsthand experience of intensive professional training to talented young footballers from India and this can be used as test bed to plan the future path for the aspiring kids and their parents “said Sunanda Das, Director, PDC Services Pvt Ltd.

Neil Taylor Picks up Player Award at the third Asian Football Awards (AFA)

Asian Football Awards, 2015, Football, Wales, U.K, Premier League, Asian, Origin, Sikh,England, West Ham, Tottenham, Swansea City FCWales and Premier League star wins prestigious award

Aditi Chauhan, the West Ham United Ladies FC and India national goalkeeper, won the Woman in Football Award
Swansea City FC and Wales defender Neil Taylor picked up the Player Award at the third Asian Football Awards (AFA) in a glittering ceremony at Wembley Stadium on Thursday evening.
Taylor overcame a challenge from Wolverhampton Wanderers FC captain Danny Batth and the West Bromwich Albion FC and England U17 striker Adil Nabi, currently on loan at Delhi Dynamos FC in the Indian Premier League.
As well as cementing his place as a regular in Swansea’s defence, the 26-year-old Taylor will be off to Euro 2016 next year after helping Wales qualify for a major tournament for the first time since the 1958 World Cup.
Taylor, whose mother is from Kolkata in India, also won the award in 2013.
He said: “It’s a great feeling to win this award. I am pleased to be here tonight to pick it up, it means a lot to me. Hopefully Asian football flourishes throughout the years.My advice to any young aspiring player is to sacrifice. You have to be willing to sacrifice and
follow your own path of where you want to go, where you want to be and what you want to
achieve. You also need to have people who are willing to go on that journey with you.
Whatever background you are from, it doesn’t matter. You can make it to the top. Hopefully this can inspire the next generation of footballers.”
The judging panel for the awards included ex-England internationals Jermain Defoe, Graeme Le Saux and Steve Coppell, and Asian Football Awards founder Baljit Rihal said: “Our vision has constantly been to support the growth of Asians in football in the UK. Since our inaugural event in 2012, the media attention and support from all across the industry has been encouraging. “I can proudly say that the Asian Football Awards has been, and will continue to be, a significant platform to inspire more Asians into every aspect of the game.
“However, there is still much work to be done, as progress in increasing representation across the industry has been far too slow.more…“Our hope is that these awards will once again raise the Asians in football debate in the mainstream media and that influential organisations make an intensive effort to help rectify this longstanding imbalance.”
Aston Villa defender Easah Suliman, who recently represented England at the Under-17 World Cup in Chile, was named AFA Young Player. Two years ago Suliman became the first player with Pakistani heritage to captain an England representative side.
He said: “I feel very honoured and privileged to be here at such a great event. Neil Taylor is a massive inspiration for what he has achieved with Wales and Swansea. If I can emulate him I will have a decent career.”
South Korean star Ji So-yun, who plays for Chelsea Ladies in the Women’s Super League,
claimed the South East Asian Award ahead of Southampton’s Maya Yoshida and Swansea’s KiSung-Yueng.
Aditi Chauhan, Asian Football Awards, 2015, Football, Wales, U.K, Premier League, Asian, Origin, Sikh,England, West Ham, Tottenham, Swansea City FCGurjit Singh, from Kidderminster Harriers, was the winner of the Non-League Award, while Aditi Chauhan, the West Ham United Ladies FC and India national goalkeeper, won the Woman in Football Award.

Guam vs India fallout – training your gun at the right people?

India vs Guam, India, Guam, Football, 2018, Russia, World Cup Qualifiers, AFC, Asia, Asian Cup, 2011, Bob Houhton, AIFF

Back in 2010, Indian football was at a similar critical juncture. The only difference was that, we were losing to good teams in friendlies but not in any World Cup qualifiers as it is happening now. However, the script looks almost the same. Experts, former coaches and players were taking pot shots at the team. Back then, we were preparing for our appearance in 2011 AFC Asian Cup. In the aftermath of defeat in the Guam vs. India 2018 World Cup qualifier, I am trying to analyze if it is fair to criticize the newly appointed coach and the freshly drafted in national team players.

 

The difference is that we were prepared much better for the Asian Cup than what we are right now. Bob Houghton had selected a coterie of players who went through extensive training for around one and half years. We even played a lot more friendlies before our appearance in the 2011 Asian Cup. We played around nine friendlies in the run up to the Asian Cup. Our campaign in AFC Cup in Group C was not spectacular but what it showed was that extensive preparations could limit the damage. We did not see damning score lines against top teams such as South Korea, Bahrain. (Subjective. 4-1 defeat to South Korea is not a damning score line according to me!)

 

Cut to 2015, we have a coach who has been appointed around 6 months ago or so; a team that practiced for a week, devoid of match practice or friendlies, struggling against teams that have been improving fast, off late. In short, the defeat to Guam is not really a surprise.

 

The other question is how the same team that showed some amount of promise against Oman went very awry against a lower ranked Guam. There are two reasons for this. Even though the 2-1 score line was a respectable one against Oman, we were saved by the callousness of Omanis. If they were a bit more clinical, score line would have been even worse. Our team played with a good drive and players playing their hearts out against Oman. The main reason behind that drive was the great home support the team received in Bangalore.

 

Team took a long trip of about 27 hours to reach Guam after the home defeat to Oman. They were treated to a super humid tropical climate and played on an artificial turf. After the first defeat against Oman, fans were already on an overdrive against the coach, team selection, and players. And our players completely forgot the basics while we succumbed to the pressure from a very good Guam side.

 

While these are no excuses to redeem the team from the bad performance, we should also understand the undue expectations we have on our team. Our media also does not help the case by repeatedly parroting Guam’s size and population in every other reference to the defeat. It is nice to compose a title for an article or a tweet by mentioning the size and population of Guam but that diverts the attention from the real issues that plagues our football system. Several small nations consistently do well in football, just as bigger nations like India and China continuously under-perform in football.

 

One and a half year long practice and nine friendlies in 2010 did not earn us a single win in 2011 Asia Cup. How can you expect a team that was assembled ten days ago the Oman fixture to perform miracles?

 

Rather than venting your ire on the coach and players, the criticism should be directed towards the shambolic fixture management by the custodians of Indian Football, the AIFF.

Do go through these insightful articles that came out in the media after the defeat to Guam.

 

 

WC Qualifiers 2018- India Vs Oman: Why the tie promises to be a humdinger!

India, Oman, World Cup, Qualifier, 2018, Russia, Football, Soccer, Asia, AFC, bangalore, Kyazzonga, Sunil Chhetri, Subrata Pal, Al HabsiHere is a preview by Sumit Bhattacharya

The countdown has begun.

11th of June 2015. 19:00Hrs.Bengaluru.India Vs Oman. First match in the second round of WC 2018 Qualifiers for India. It is going to be a crunch tie for India from many angles. The big question is, can India defeat Oman or at least snatch a point?!Let us examine.

 

History:

 

From a nondescript history, Oman rocket-blasted into the Asian football horizon only in the 1990s. Indian football on the other hand plummeted into the bottom of its history roughly during the same period.

The current FIFA ranking of Oman and India are 101 and 141 respectively. India faced the Red warriors twice in WC qualifiers in 2004.Oman won the away match 5-1 but India managed to pull off a draw in the away match 0-0.The most recent encounter was in 2012 when India was again thrashed 5-1.

However for the past few months, Oman is not in its best of forms. It was battered in the Asian cup 2015 in January by Asian power houses. In preparatory friendlies, Oman was held to a goalless draw by a lower ranked Bahrain on 3th May  and on 5th June, another lower ranked Syria beat Oman 2-1. What it signifies that Oman has still some distance to go to be the best even in Asia. A glance at the social networking sites of Omani football will reveal widespread resentment against the French coach. Some fans even predicted a win for India. (https://www.facebook.com/OmanNationalFootballTeam/timeline)

Meanwhile team India is on an upswing and has improved a lot since they last played Oman. Most of the sloths and technically amateurish players, blessed by the previous coach have been replaced by a far fitter and faster lot of hungry youngsters who are hardly afraid of anyone on ground.

So the match is likely to be played without the baggage of history  and would definitely be a test of character for the boys in Blue.

 

Indian football reloaded:

 

Till date, National team fixtures normally meant no live telecast, sparse crowd consisting mostly of media and security personnel with a few hundred diehard fans. However this time it is a different story altogether. The amount of excitement and enthusiasm that is being witnessed about this match at Bengaluru is unprecedented. The minuscule number of fans who believed that India could make it big in football is growing exponentially each passing day. After the glitzy inaugural edition of the hugely popular Indian Super League and a far improved I-league 2015, expectation is running high. Thousands of guys are hoping against hope for a miracle win by the blue tigers. Sony Six has started airing promos for the match. Various online forums are abuzz with the selection of team and team composition Tickets sales have started online and one is expected to have a full house at Sree Kanteerava stadium. If so, then it will indicate how popular the game of football has really become in cricket crazy India.

 

Home advantage:

 

Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex in Oman has a capacity of around 34k.All the other stadiums have capacities of less than 15k to below 10k.So it is pretty safe to assume that most of Oman’s players are not used to playing in front of huge crowds. Thus a vociferous, hostile crowd of over 20 thousand might prove to be a factor in a crunch game like this. High humidity of Bengaluru is also going to be a crucial factor. Playing surface of Sree Kateerava is an area of concern for Oman too. Team manager Mohammed Al Alawi had visited the Stadium recently and found the surface “uneven and bumpy”. However all the Indian players are well versed with pitch which will be an added advantage for India.

So it remains to be seen how far India can exploit the home conditions.

Team Oman vis-à-vis team India:

Physicality:

Traditionally West Asian teams are physically stronger than their Indian counter parts. However Oman is an exception. A closer look will reveal that this Indian team has players equally well built if not stronger.

Gurpreet Singh Sandhu -1.97 m, Arnab Mandal- 1.79m,  Sandesh Jhingan  1.88m, Dhanachandra Singh- 1.80m, Rino Anto- 1.74m, Dhanpal Ganesh- 1.85m,Robin Singh-1.85m, Lalchhuan Mawia- 1.82, Gurwinder Singh-1.83m , Saityasen Singh -1.78m,Augustin Fernandes- 1.79m,Holicharan Narzary -1.79m are all tall enough to match most of their opponents. Here is a view of Oman player’s heights:

GK-Ali Al Habsi(1.84m),Al Busaidi(1.73m) – Al Musalami (1.75m)–Sallam Amur – Ali Salim(1.65m), Eid Mohammed(1.83m) – Ahmed Kano(1.79m), Raed Ibrahim(1.78m) – Al Hosni(1.81m) – Qasim Said(1.78m), Al Muqbali(1.81m)

 

Department of Fitness:

Fitness of Indian players has always been an area of concern. However with the improvement of training facilities and introduction of professional trainers, team India has made remarkable progress. As evident from the matches against Nepal or the recently held AFC cup matches. Indian players appeared far fitter than their predecessors. They ran full throttle till the very end. Jackichand Singh, Saityasen Singh, Eugensen Lyngdoh,Sandesh Jhingan or Sehnaj Singh can be as fast as anybody. So this time Oman just might find it tough to run past the Indians unlike previous matches.

Game plan:

Anyone watching I-league 2015 or The ISL season#1 will vouch for the improvements of Indian players as far as the passing or ball possession is concerned. The Omanis are known to play short passes too. It will be really interesting to see how the battle of midfield goes. Expect an all out battle as India is expected to go for pressing football to break up the rhythm of Omanis. Oman, if put under pressure is prone to leaving a lot of open spaces for the opponents. It remains to be seen how Mr. Constantine and his boys take advantage of these loopholes.

Former France international Paul Le Guen, in charge of team Oman, has come under fierce criticism off late for Oman’s recent performances. He has made quite a few changes from the squad which took part in Asian Cup in Januray 2015. Regulars like Jaber Al Owaisi(DF), Al Shatri(DMF),Hassan Mudhafar(LB), Yaqoob Abdul Karim(FW) and Said Al Ruzaiqi(FW) have been axed.

Anyway India needs to watch out for the striker Abdul Aziz Al Muqbali, the set piece master Ahmed ‘Kano’ Mubarak, nippy young wingers, Raed Ibrahim and Qasim Said. Experienced customer  Ahmed ‘Kano’ Mubarak is another threat who gets dangerous during his attacking forays.

Meanwhile India would be relying on Mr. Ever Dependable Sunil Chhetri and the brute strength of the mercurial Robin Singh with Saityasen and Jackichand Singh providing ample support. Defence looks solid but availability of the emerging star Sandesh Jhingan might be a dampener as he is carrying a shoulder injury. However the sturdy Dhanachandra Singh’s role will be most crucial along with that of the big kid, Dhanpal Ganesh for quick overlaps and breaking of Oman’s flow. The extremely talented Eugeneson Lyngdoh will have to carry the mantel of midfield.

 

Parting notes:

Oman is obviously the favorite to win the tie. However rest assured that India will come hard at them. It is   going to be a test for Mr. Constantine’s acumen as his team selection, leaving out Romeo or Brandon Fernandes and benching Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, has come under a lot of criticism from the fans. If Oman fumbles a bit and India puts up an above par show then an upset win is not all that impossible for India though even a draw is being considered by many to be a respectable result. If so then this surely will be a watershed moment for Indian football.

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