THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Coach Stephen Constantine was at pains after the match to explain that the score-line in India’s opening win against Sri Lanka would have been much bigger had they converted their domination into goals; the lack of penetration was disconcerting for the hosts.
With Nepal, beaten by Lanka in the tournament opener, lined up in their second Group A match on Sunday, Constantine would want his boys to go ahead and get some confidence in their creative abilities. India need only a draw to ensure spot. “It is all about positioning, and we were well-positioned. However, there is always room for improvement,” Constantine had said.
That improvement should basically come in midfield where the Indians were guilty of woeful passing against Sri Lanka. The AIFF-Player-of-the-Year Eugeneson Lyngdoh would be hopeful of putting his best game on view against Nepal after a disappointing outing in central midfield in the first match. While plenty of crosses were whipped in against the Lankans, few had the quality expected in an international encounter. In a 4-3-3 system wing backs Narayan Das and Pritam Kotal were encouraged to deliver crosses to take advantage of Robin Singh’s height. But India became sharper only in the second half after they started to play the ball more on the ground.
Much of Constantine’s tactics on Sunday would depend on the availability of Robin who was taken off after injuring himself while scoring his second goal. The good news is that x-rays showed no serious injury to the strapping forward’s leg. “In the first half, we had a lot of possession but could not penetrate. The inclusion of Rowlin Borges made a difference for us as he pushed the ball forward,” Constantine had noted.
And penetration it will be that the Englishman would want to see from his boys at the Greenfield Stadium. But their opposition on Sunday are expected to test the hosts’ defence better with their more attacking formation. While the Lankans staying put around their penalty area did not provide too much challenge, Nepal will play much higher up the field, and thereby opening up spaces for the Indian midfield to create something.
Two Enter Semis
Defending champions Afghanistan and Maldives advanced into the semifinals from group B with contrasting wins on Saturday. Afghanistan blank Bhutan 3-0 while Maldives snatched three points with 3-1 victory over Bangladesh.