Beyond the 6-1 Scoreline vs Laos, Here’s What Lies Ahead for India
A 6-1 victory against a team in a qualifier for the qualifiers of the AFC Asian Cup, can’t really mean much, can it?
On Tuesday, India defeated Laos 6-1 in the second leg of the AFC Asian Cup play-off match in Gauhati and advanced to the next round of the qualifying stage with a 7-1 aggregate. A victory with a 5 goal margin is a rare feat in Indian football and understandably, it had the fans excited.
However, there are things that aren’t being talked about here and that is, what’s next? Also there are things which are beyond the scoreline of 6-1. Let’s take a look.
Positives from the Second Leg Match
To begin with, beating any team 6-1 isn’t easy. As mentioned by the Indian Captain in the post-match press interaction, though India started as favourites against Laos but it wasn’t easy, especially after conceding the first goal. India recovered well as a team and it’s not easy when it’s a fairly young team. Keegan Pereira and Fuldanco Cardozo made their debut in the match. Cardozo even went on to score one of the six goals.
The India team has been practicing a host of new tactics and skills and the match reflected their hardwork very clearly. One could see the newly improvised free-kick as well as corner tactics while the team displayed a bunch of new moves, including back heel passes, which did look impressive.
However, more than that it was the attitude of the team which spoke highly about them. According to the Indian coach Stephen Constantine, the intent of the team was always to attack and you could see the Indian defence line standing high.
This game-play resulted in the first goal of the match when Laos exploited the space given and took the initial lead. But the goal did not at all demoralize the hosts who stuck to their plan and attacked.
Negatives from the Match
We must not here forget that Laos is ranked 174th in the latest FIFA rankings while India stands 163rd. So let the scoreline not fool you. We should understand that we were playing a tactically and physically inferior team.
For the first 35 minutes of the game, the team looked under-confident and missed out on a lot of chances. India’s wing play was decent and very penetrative into the Laos defence, but the failed chances of the first-half indicate that a lot needs to done with regards to finishing. Also, speaking of the improvised tactics used by the team, they looked sloppy on field and when we take on teams like Iran, there will be no room for such mistakes.
The AFC Cup Qualification Process
The AFC Asian Cup has four stages. India had to play from the first round itself as we are ranked 35th in Asia out of 46 teams and teams ranked 35 onwards had to play from the first leg.
India defeated Nepal 2-0 over two legs in the first round of the qualifiers, while the FIFA Qualifiers also served in as the next round qualifiers for the AFC Asian Cup, 2019. India was drawn in a group containing Iran, Oman, Turkmenistan, and Guam in the second round and the winner gets through to the final round while the second-placed team gets to the group stage of the qualification. India could manage only a single win from their eight fixtures and hence taking them to the qualifying play-off round.
The play-off round consists of two rounds and India, after beating Laos is one of five teams to qualify for the third round.
The fourth stage is the final round of the tournament.
What’s Lies Ahead?
The third round of the qualification process features 24 teams competing for 12 spots in the Asia Cup 2019, slated to be held in UAE. The runners-up and third-placed teams from the eight groups in the second round account for 16 of these 24 teams. The remaining eight teams are those from the play-off rounds.
India will now play home and away games in a round-robin format where 12 teams will go through to the Asia Cup.
The draws for the third round, which starts in March 2017 might have India face one these higher ranked teams like Kuwait, North Korea, Afghanistan and Lebanon alongside teams like Bahrain, Guam, Hong Kong, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Oman, Palestine, Philippines, Singapore, Turkmenistan, Malaysia and Vietnam.
Thus the road ahead isn’t really easy for India.
India at AFC Cup
India last qualified for the AFC Cup in 2011, which was held in Qatar. This was the second instance when India qualified for the tournament after 1964. India was grouped in Group C with Australia, South Korea and Bahrain. It’s not hard to predict that India finished last in the group losing all three games.
The best result for India in the Asian Cup was that of the runners-up position in 1964 when only four teams participated in the tournament after 11 out of 16 teams withdrew their participation.
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