A depleted Indian men’s football team narrowly lost 1-2 to Bahrain in their first match on their Bahrain tour and will now take on Belarus in the second international friendly on Saturday.

Read: Key takeaways from India's narrow defeat to Bahrain in international friendly

It will be a rare opportunity for the Indian men’s team to face an European opponent, their first one in over a decade.

The Blue Tigers last faced an European opponent in 2012 in the shape of Azerbaijan who ran out 3-0 winners on the night. This was only the second European nation that the Indian men’s team have faced since the turn of the millennium.

However, fresh off the Hero ISL campaign, India’s best male footballers will have a chase to test themselves against Belarus, a team ranked ten places above India in the Fifa rankings.

FIFA Rankings

India: 104

Belarus: 94

Head-to-head record

This is the first time India will play a match against Belarus. However, the Blue Tigers have a lot to improve when it comes to their record against European teams. In the 16 matches they have faced against a UEFA member association team, they have drawn just twice and lost the remaining matches.

India’s only draws against European teams have come against Finland in the 1993 Nehru Cup and against France in the 1960 Olympics.

The key talking points

Can India cut down defensive mistakes?

The Blue Tigers did well to keep Bahrain out for most parts of the match on Wednesday, but in the end, a lapse in concentration cost them the match.

Against Belarus who are technically stronger than Bahrain, India will have to remain completely focussed. Head coach Igor Stimac is expected to make changes so it will be a challenge for the players to develop a quick understanding with each other. However, this game will give Blue Tigers a chance to step up their sharpness as a unit as they come against a strong side.

India have shown that they can keep top teams out as proved by the 0-0 draw away to Qatar, but they would need to be totally focussed to produce a repeat performance against Belarus.

Newcomers on show

Stimac has promised to give all players an opportunity during the friendlies, so Prabhsukhan Singh Gill could make his debut in goal. Suhair VP, Aniket Jadhav, Anwar Ali, Yasir Mohammed and Roshen Naorem all got minutes under their belt on Wednesday and some of these players would be expected to start against the Europeans.

Match Timings and Details

Fixture: Belarus vs India

Date: March 26, 2022

Time: 9:30 PM (IST)

Venue: Madinet Hamad Stadium in Hamad Town, Bahrain