Blue Tigers target win against All Whites to seal a Final spot

India lock horns with New Zealand on Thursday at the Mumbai Football Arena in the Hero Intercontinental Cup. The Blue Tigers are just a point away from entering the finals of the tournament, which is to be played on June 10. Stephen Constantine’s men have been in scintillating form in this tournament, having registered emphatic victories against both Chinese Taipei and Kenya.

New Zealand, on the other hand, after initially going down to Kenya have managed to keep their heads in the race with a narrow win over Chinese Taipei on Tuesday. However, they have a huge hurdle to overcome in the form of India if they want to keep their hopes alive. Currently ranked 133 in the FIFA rankings, the All Whites have played India just once before where the match had ended in a draw. With a relatively young and inexperienced squad at head coach Fritz Schmid’s disposal, India do seem to have an upper-hand.

How India is expected to shape up:

With qualification to the final all but sealed, coach Stephen Constantine has hinted that he might make a few changes to his squad for Thursday’s clash. There is a possibility some of the senior players in the form of Sunil Chhetri, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Jeje Lalpekhlua and Sandesh Jhingan may not start.

Youngsters such as Lalruatthara and Ashique Kuruniyan have displayed plenty of promise for the national team and might be given a chance to start. Balwant Singh, who enjoyed a fruitful cameo appearance against Kenya, is also another contender to book a spot in the line-up. In midfield, Rowlin Borges and Pronay Halder will fight it out for the holding midfield position, while Mumbai City FC’s Amrinder Singh is a more than reliable option in goal and could make his Hero Intercontinental Cup debut on Thursday.

Squad List:

Goalkeepers: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Amrinder Singh, Vishal Kaith

Defenders: Pritam Kotal, Anas Edathodika, Salam Ranjan Singh, Sandesh Jhingan, Lalruatthara, Narayan Das, Jerry Lalrinzuala, Subhasish Bose

Midfielders: Udanta Singh, Ashique Kuruniyan, Rowllin Borges, Anirudh Thapa, Pronay Halder, Mohammed Rafique, Halicharan Narzary, Laldanmawia Ralte

Forwards: Sunil Chhetri, Jeje Lalpekhlua, Balwant Singh, Alen Deory

A look at how New Zealand is expected to shape up:

New Zealand were unfortunate to come away from their first game against Kenya without a point. The All Whites initially took the lead through the impressive Sarpreet Singh, but failed to stall Kenya’s fightback, which snatched away the victory from their hands.

However, New Zealand have plenty of firepower going forward with the likes of Singh, Jai Ingham and Matthew Ridenton. Captain Tom Doyle is ever-present at the back marshalling the defence, while custodian Max Crocombe has proven his worth between the sticks. Schmid will be excited to see how his boys live upto the strong Indian challenge and how his tactics can spoil Constantine’s plans.

Squad List:

Goalkeepers: Max Crocombe, Michael Woud, Nik Tzanev

Defenders: Nikko Boxall, Adam Mitchell, Sam Brotherton, Thomas Doyle, Dane Ingham, Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi, Justin Gulley, Liberato Cacace

Midfielders: Matthew Ridenton, Sarpreet Singh, Henry Cameron, Cameron Howieson, Clayton Lewis, Tim Payne, Alex Rufer, Andre De Jong, Moses Dyer, Jai Ingham

Forwards: Noah Billingsley, Myer Bevan

Coach Speaks:

India head coach Stephen Constantine: “Looking forward to the game. I think we will take these games as a preparation for the Asian Cup, which as I said, started since we’ve qualified. Looking forward to playing against New Zealand. These matches will give us different looks and different problems and we need these games in our learning process.”

New Zealand head coach Fritz Schmid: “I know the situation. The Indian team is looking forward to the Asian Cup. There has been a lot of effort already, which means the importance of the tournament for the Indian side is very clear. So we must be prepared to face a very tough side.”

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