India have two difficult away games back-to-back as a part of the FIFA 2022 World Cup qualifiers in this international break. First up is the game against Afghanistan which will see the Blue Tigers take on the third-placed team in their group. With only two points from three games, India is in a distinct spot of disadvantage with regards to their qualification dreams. The Afghanis have conceded more goals than India, but they are an extremely unpredictable side and will not be easy to play against.
Ranked lower than India, the Lions of Khorasanare (149th) will face the Men in Blue at a neutral venue i.e the Pamir Stadium in Tajikistan. They have not had a good year performance-wise, but they did manage to eke out a 1-0 win against Bangladesh in the qualifiers.
The captain of the Afghanistan side is also one of their most lethal attacking threats. The PSV Eindhoven graduate was only recently given the armband but he has already made many fans, especially considering he was the one who scored the winner against Bangladesh. Energetic, technical and with a real capability to lead his side from the front, Noor will cause India grief is he is given time and space in the middle of the park.
A spark in the attacking quartet for Thai side Lampang FC, Faysal excels at the No. 10 position for Afghanistan. With nine goals in 39 appearances for the national side, he is also the highest goalscorer in the squad currently and has tonnes of experience to back up his skill and temperament.
Head to Head:
India have a solid historic lead over Afghanistan, winning six of their eight encounters. The Blue Tigers, however did lose the final of the 2013 SAFF Championship 2-0 in Kathmandu. Overall, the Blue Tigers have netted 16 goals against the Afghans and have conceded only four times.
News from the India camp:
The exclusions of Jobby Justin, Redeem Tlang and Michael Soosairaj from the squad have raised eyebrows on Indian coach Igor Stimac’s decisions but it remains to be seen what the rest can achieve. The squad has just undergone a fitness camp in Dubai where Luka Radman, India’s conditioning coach, has been busy preparing them for the gruelling tests ahead.
However, the Indian team were dealt a huge blow as Anas Edathodika returned to India from camp to mourn his mother’s sudden demise. In his and Sandesh Jhingan’s absence, defensive worries are compounded for Stimac ahead of the all-important clash.
Afghanistan Possible Starting XI: Ovays Azizi; Hassan Amin, Haroon Fakhruddin Amiri, Najim Haidary, Farzad Ataee; Noor Husin, Adam Najem, Farshad Noor, Norlla Amiri, Faysal Shayesteh; Zubayr Amiri.
India Possible Starting XI: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Rahul Bheke, Adil Khan, Narender Gahlot, Mandar Rao Desai, Raynier Fernandez,Anirudh Thapa , Sahal Abdul Samad, Udanta Singh, Sunil Chhetri, Ashique Kuruniyan