The Indian men’s football team will take on Syria in their final AFC Asian Cup 2023 group game with their hopes of making it to the next round still very much intact. 

The Blue Tigers can qualify for the Round of 16 if they beat Syria and results in other groups go their way. 

In the 2019 edition, three teams with three points qualified for the Round of 16, with two having a goal difference of -1. 

The Blue Tigers will have to win by a four-goal margin to achieve that but they could progress with a worse goal difference this time. 

Seven teams are in contention to qualify for the knockout rounds as third-place teams and all seven teams could be in India’s reach if they get all three points against Syria. Any other result and elimination will be confirmed. 

FIFA Ranking

Syria: 91

India: 102

Syria are eleven places above India in the FIFA rankings and have been in the top 100 for seven years. They achieved their best FIFA ranking in June 2018 when they rose as high as 68 in the FIFA charts. 

The Blue Tigers are ranked 102 and have been in and out of the top 100 in recent times. Their best FIFA ranking came in 1996 when the team rose to 94 in the FIFA charts. 

Form Guide

Syria: LDDDL

Syria are winless in their last five games but only two of those games have been against teams ranked below them in the FIFA rankings. The Nosour Qasioun enjoyed key wins against China and Thailand in 2023 but the team has won just three out of their last 25 matches in all competitions. 

Syria though have impressed in the AFC Asian Cup so far conceding just one goal and securing a 0-0 draw against Uzbekistan. 

India: LWLLL

Igor Stimac’s side have lost four out of their last five matches but three of those games came against teams ranked higher than them. India will have to overcome this record against higher-ranked teams when they take on Syria if they are to have any chance of making it to the next round. 

Head-to-Head Record

India and Syria have met on six occasions and both sides have notched two wins each in these matches. The previous meeting between the two teams was the Intercontinental Cup in 2019 in Ahmedabad, which ended in a 1-1 draw. India captain Sunil Chhetri has scored two goals against Syria in six appearances. 

Key Battles

Ibrahim Hessar vs Sandesh Jhingan: Syria haven’t scored in the AFC Asian Cup so far and haven’t been among the goals of late but Ibrahim Hessar has scored two out of their last three goals and is capable of causing India problems. The midfielder who is used as a striker plays his club football in Argentina and will be a tricky one for the Indian defence to deal with thanks to his ability to drop in midfield and create holes in the opposition defences. 

Sandesh Jhingan who has been one of India’s standout players this tournament will have to bring all his experience into play to prevent Hessar from wreaking havoc in the Indian defence. India needs to keep a clean sheet in this game and the winner of this battle could influence the outcome of the match. 

Thaer Krouma vs Sunil Chhetri: Syria have been rock solid at the back conceding just one goal so far. They will be tested by an Indian attack that caused plenty of problems for Uzbekistan in the last game and was unlucky not to score. With India in a must-win situation, Syria will have to keep an eye out for Chhetri who often rises to the occasion in such situations and has scored twice against Syria in the past. 

Krouma is an experienced defender with 36 appearances for Syria and possesses the cool head needed for this situation. 

Jalil Elias vs Anirudh Thapa: Jalil Elias has been a key figure in the Syrian midfield as he has protected the defence effectively. India did create chances in the last match and midfielder Anirudh Thapa was at the heart of it. He created two chances for the team and also had a passing accuracy of 83.3% in the opposition half against Uzbekistan. 

Elias would be tasked with cutting off India’s supply line which would pass through Thapa and thus end any chances of an Indian victory.

Match Details and Telecast: 

Date: January 23, 2023

Time: 5 PM IST

Venue: Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor, Qatar

Telecast: Sports18 and Jio Cinema (Live streaming)