What Indian fans can expect from the Hero Intercontinental Cup
The 47th King's Cup in Thailand gave Indian football fans their first glimpse of the new era of Indian football under head coach Igor Stimac. There were a lot of positives to be taken away from the recently-concluded tournament, but with the Hero Intercontinental Cup 2019 due to begin from July 7, there's a lot more the Indian football fandom can look forward to in the coming month.
India will be hosting Syria, Tajikistan and DPR North Korea in Ahmedabad, giving the Blue Tigers’ faithful the opportunity to watch the team in action on home soil. The teams will face each other in a round robin format, with the top two facing off in the final on July 19.
The inaugural edition of the tournament last year saw India best Kenya, Chinese Taipei and New Zealand to lift the trophy and the team will be eager to defend the title this time around. India talisman Sunil Chhetri was at his scintillating best in the last edition, finishing as the top scorer with 8 goals in 4 matches and much will be expected of him.
Chhetri, however, will have substantial support to count on this term, especially from the young batch of players who broke into the team and impressed during the King's Cup. The likes of Anirudh Thapa, Sahal Abdul Samad, Amarjit Singh, Raynier Fernandes and a few others like Adil Khan, Rahul Bheke, etc are expected to play a major role in the four-nation tournament.
Heading into the competition following an impressive display at the King’s Cup, the team will be full of confidence. Although Stimac has stressed the importance of focusing on the progression rather than results in the initial phases, it will surely be at the back of every fan and player's mind. As the reigning champions, expect the team to go out all guns blazing in order to retain the trophy.
Stimac's 35-man squad for the Intercontinental Cup preparatory camp, announced last week, includes some new faces like Sarthak Golui, Narender Gehlot, Mandar Rao Dessai, Ashique Kuruniyan and Nikhil Poojary - who will get their first taste of training under the Croat. The most notable inclusion in the squad, however, is Anas Edathodika. The veteran defender, who announced his retirement from international football earlier this year, received a call from Stimac himself who convinced the Kerala Blasters man to reassess his position. Anas adds some much-needed experience to India's backline and him resuming his partnership with Sandesh Jhingan at the heart of India’s defence will surely be one of the highlights of the upcoming tournament.
This being Stimac’s first official engagement at home, the excitement and expectations are bound to be overwhelming. That being said, we should keep in mind that these are still early days and Stimac is still getting to know his players. But needless to say, both Stimac and the players will be pumped to play some attractive football in front of the home fans.