AFC Asian Cup qualifiers, India vs Cambodia preview: Battle with nerves awaits Blue Tigers in crucial opener
Indian men’s football team face Cambodia in the opening match of the third round of AFC Asian Cup qualifiers at the Salt Lake stadium in Kolkata on Wednesday.
The Blue Tigers are placed in Group D with Hong Kong and Afghanistan the other teams completing the group.
Playing at home, India will be favourites to make a winning start to their campaign against Cambodia who are considered the weakest team in the group.
However, head coach Igor Stimac has refused to take any team lightly and wants his team to be fully motivated on the pitch on Wednesday.
India will have to battle early nerves in the game as the pressure of being favourites as well as the home side will be telling. The Blue Tigers must overcome it and allow their superior quality to reflect on the pitch.
India have lost their last three matches heading into the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers but all of those defeats came against higher-ranked opposition. The Blue Tigers are unlikely to face that kind of a challenge in the upcoming qualifiers. Their SAFF Championship win last year would help them draw some confidence as India were able to turn a difficult start in that tournament into a triumphant climax.
Cambodia have won two out of its last five matches and lost three matches in the group stages of the AFF Championship in 2021. Their last win came against Timor-Leste in an international friendly.
In the last four meetings, India came on top in three while Cambodia managed to win one. This will be the fifth time when India will be facing Cambodia. The last time India faced the Southeast Asian nation was in 2017 in an international friendly at the National Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The scoreline read 3-2 in favour of the Blue Tigers.
Souey Visal vs Sunil Chhetri: The battle of the two skippers could be pivotal in determining the outcome of the game. Visal is a veteran of 63 international matches and will be tasked of keeping Chhetri away from the goal. Preventing Chhetri from scoring can go a long way in stopping India and Visal will have his hands full on Wednesday. Chhetri has looked sharp in recent training matches and will look to get the better of his opposite number.
Keo Sokpheng vs Sandesh Jhingan: India’s best defender Sandesh Jhingan will go up against Cambodia’s third-highest all-time goalscorer in Keo Sokpheng. Chances are likely to come at a premium for Keo and when it does come his way, he will have to get the better of Jhingan in the Indian rearguard. It’s imperative for the Cambodian to win this battle for his team to have any chance against the hosts.
Sos Suhana vs Brandon Ferandes: Suhana who will become the player with the joint most caps for Cambodia on Wednesday is their midfield marshall. With 64 appearances, he has ample experience of the international stage and will face off against Brandon Fernandes who will be responsible for controlling the tempo of the match. Suhana must stop Fernandes from dictating play or be ready for a long evening at the Salt Lake stadium.
Fixture: India vs Cambodia
Date: June 8, 2022
Time: 8:30 PM (IST)
Venue: Salt Lake stadium, Kolkata
Telecast: Star Sports Network