A late, late draw against Afghanistan saw India escape their last FIFA World Cup qualifier game with a point, but that has left the hopes of qualification dangling by a thread. The Blue Tigers are still winless in their group, having managed 3 points from their four games so far and are actually yet to score from open play in the qualifiers. Incredibly, all 3 of their goals have come from Brandon Fernandes set-pieces with Sunil Chhetri, Adil Khan and Len Doungel being the scorers.
Oman; however, come into the match after thrashing Bangladesh 4-1 in the last game. There is little doubt Oman are the overwhelming favourites for this tie, especially knowing that they beat India 2-1 in the reverse fixture in Guwahati.
Ahmed Mubarak: The most experienced campaigner on the pitch for Oman, Ahmed Mubarak will be expected to dictate play in the attacking half for the home side. He already has a record of scoring against India ( a brace in2006)and will pose a considerable challenge to India’s midfield.
Al Mandhar: The architect of India’s downfall in India, Al Mandhar struck late twice to snatch a last-gasp win for the Gulf nation in September. He is capable of playing anywhere across the front line, and the likes of Adil Khan and Rahul Bheke will have their task cut out for them if they are to contain Al Mandhar.
Head to Head:
Oman are head and shoulders above India, having won 5 of the eight games the two countries have played against each other and having netted 18 past the Blue Tigers. India has one victory to their name, and if history is any indicator, it is likely that Oman will continue their impressive run come matchday.
News from the Indian camp:
An extremely disappointing outing against Afghanistan in which the Indian attack looked boring and insipid has already seen may pundits and critics question manager Igor Stimac’s tactics and substitutions. Despite trying his best to deploy a possession-based system, the Blue Tigers keep coming up short, and Stimac needs to find a way to fix the persistent problems and find a win somehow if India is serious about its ambitions to make it to the next round. The absence of Anas Edathodika, who has left the team for a family emergency, might hurt the away team badly given the poor performances from Mandar Desai and Pronay Haldar against the Afghans.
Predicted India Starting XI:
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Pritam Kotal, Rahul Bheke, Adil Khan, Mandar Rao Desai, Pronay Halder, Anirudh Thapa, Brandon Fernandes, Udanta Singh, Sunil Chhetri, Manvir Singh