AUGUSTO RODRIGUES | NT
India is the ‘sleeping giant’ of football that wakes up when the PR shrill is high and dozes off other times is the pill one has to take as they face Oman in FIFA 2022 World Cup Qualifiers at the Al-Seeb Stadium in Oman today.
A few falls before one commences a climb is acceptable and even good for a steady rise. But, constant falls with no sign of significant improvement does not bode well for the team and new coach Igor Stimac because constant excuses disfigures beauty.
India lost with Oman in their first qualifier in India, in a match they had taken the lead but never looked like maintaining it and the hopes of some improvement looked to manifest when India held Asia champions Qatar goalless. Thereafter, the giant went back to sleep.
India coach Igor Stimac has rightly said that Oman is the favourite today and by doing so he has shown that by fooling all times will never help take the game forward. Oman is technically and physically superior to India. They are second on the table – one point below table toppers Qatar –and six points ahead of India.
India coach has completed six months and in this time, apart from introducing a fresh element in set piece deliveries, has been able to brush away the cobwebs that were forming around Goa’s Brandon Fernandes.
Brandon has talent, if tapped, can help him create exciting football. With Stimac, the good of the football in Brandon has started to flow and he could well be the figure who could determine the flow, speed and style of play against Oman today.
India’s defence has been a problem not just because Sandip Jhingan is injured but because with his injury, the lapses of having to play Mandar Rao Desai on the left are becoming more ominous. Adil Khan is playing his role well but that play gets diluted when he has to step in to cover his other colleague.
Rowllin Borges is another player that is being missed due to injury. In his absence, Brandon has had to fill in that role and thereby curbing his creativity of an advancing midfielder. Brandon is best when he can score or create opportunities for others to score. He did well against Afghanistan in the last match – falling back to help the defence and take shots from far at goal, though they were not in target – but it straps his freedom.
Sunil Chhetri has scored five of the eight goals scored by India since the time Igor has taken over and it goes to show that India prefers to wait and bask in glory when one player is scoring instead of working on preparing others. This has happened before and will continue as long as there is no change in the mindset of the administrators.
Udanta Singh has been showing promise and needs more space and responsibility to shoulder the onus of scoring. Against Oman today, scoring through set-pieces is what India will look to do. Coming home with a point will set the country ablaze with hope of better days to come and winning will mean the Almighty is close to home.