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Indian Football: 5 Things to expect from the AFC U-23 qualifier between India and UAE

Igor Stimac's side is all set to face UAE in the AFC U23 Qualifiers. Here are the 5 things that we can expect from this encounter.

Indian Football Team India U23 AFC U-23 Asian Cup

Indian U23 preparing ahead of their UAE encounter; (Image Source: AIFF Media)


Atrayo Bhattacharya

Updated: 27 Oct 2021 4:18 AM GMT

Indian U-23 football team started the AFC U-23 Asian Cup qualifiers with a brilliant 2-1 win over Oman. The Blue Colts showed great grit and determination to earn all three points against a buoyant Oman U-23 side. However, Igor Stimac's men need to keep up the consistency as they will face the hosts, United Arab Emirates next and a win here will put them in great stead to qualify for the main competition scheduled next year. The Bridge comes up with the 5 things that we can expect from this encounter.

Crucial and Deciding Encounter

The UAE U-23 team currently ranked 71 by FIFA, is coming into this game on the back of a shock 2-1 defeat against the Kyrgyz Republic in the first qualifier. Hence they will look to get off the blocks quickly and put pressure on the Indian U23 team. Meanwhile, Igor Stimac's men should take the same approach as they did against Oman. They should remain calm and defend in numbers and look for the right opportunity to attack through counters. As technically this encounter will decide who progresses to the next stage of the competition.

Indian colts Rahim Ali and Vikram Pratap Singh celebrating the laters goal against Oman; (Image Source: AIFF Media)

Recycling Midfield

Igor Stimac fielded a classic 4-4-2 with Suresh Singh Wangjam leading the Blue Colts. The Bengaluru FC midfielder was partnered with Jeakson Singh in the middle. The young duo recycled possession and moved the ball around very quickly to catch the Omani defenders off guard. Suresh showed great vision and precision to create chances for the forwards. He combined with Vikram Pratap and created the first opportunity that saw Rahim Ali score the first goal from the spot.

Apuia to start

Apuia may also return to the starting eleven after remaining on the sidelines against Oman with a knock. In that case, Stimac may sacrifice Jeakson or may even opt for a three-man midfield reducing a player upfront. Rahim Ali will continue leading the lines for the Blue Colts while having players like Rahul KP and Vikram Pratap in his company on either flank. It will be interesting to see whether Stimac tweaks the formation or replaces someone in midfield.

Resilient Indian Defense

In defense, Deepak Tangri delivered a defensive masterclass against Oman U23. The ATK Mohun Bagan man will be looking to continue his great form against the UAE U23 side. He will be well supported by the likes of Asish Rai, Akash Mishra, and Narender Gehlot. Lastly, Dheeraj Singh will keep his place in between the sticks as he was sensational against Oman U23.

Lack of possession may turn costly for India

The India U23 team is known for their quick transitional plays as they will mostly use pace on the flanks to catch the UAE U23 defenders off guard. Players like Vikram Pratap Singh, Rahul KP, and Rahim Ali will be crucial for the Blue Colts. The Indian midfield will be pivotal once again as they will look to grab the loose balls and create chances for the forwards.

India U23 team's biggest strength and weakness is their midfield. They hardly saw the ball against the Oman U23 team and still managed to create chances. However, on an off day, things can go wrong for the Blue Colts. Hence they need to hold the ball more and control the tempo of the match. It will only allow the defenders more time to respite and also create more chances for the forwards.

Probable Starting Lineup

India U23: Dheeraj Singh (Gk); Asish Rai, Narender Gehlot, Deepak Tangri, Akash Mishra; Suresh Singh Wangjam, Jeakson Singh, Lalengmawia; Vikram Pratap Singh, Rahim Ali, Rahul KP.

UAE U23: Rakan Al Menhali (GK), Yousif Al-Mheiri, Ahmed Abdulla, Faris Khalil, Eid Khamis, Mohammed Abbas, Majid Rashid, Khalid Al-Balochi, Ali Saleh, Sultan Al-Ameeri, Saeed Al-Kaabi.


The match between India U23 and hosts UAE U23 is scheduled on October 27 from 10:00 PM (IST) onwards. There is no live telecast of the match available. But the Indian football fans will get to stream the match live on the Indian football team's official Facebook page.

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