Three years after Asian Cup heartbreak, India resume rivalry against Bahrain in intl friendly

The head coach is looking forward to testing various combinations during the two international friendly matches here to prepare for different scenarios during the Asian Cup qualifiers in June.

Published: 23rd March 2022 11:03 AM  |   Last Updated: 23rd March 2022 11:03 AM   |  A+A-

Indian football team (Photo @IndianFootball)

Indian football team (Photo @IndianFootball)

By PTI

MANAMA: Three years after Bahrain denied them a historic Asian Cup knock-out berth with an injury-time win, India resume their rivalry against the gulf nation in an international football friendly here on Tuesday.

India was on the verge of booking a knock-out round berth in the 2019 Asian Cup in the UAE before Bahrain scored from a penalty in the stoppage time. That match broke Indian hearts and turned out to be the last one for English coach Stephen Constantine.

Now, as part of their preparations for yet another Asian Cup berth which will be decided in the final round qualifiers in June in Kolkata, 104th-ranked India face 89th-ranked Bahrain in the first of the two international friendly matches here.

India plays against Belarus on Saturday in the same venue. These two matches will be the first real big tests in nine months after India lost to Qatar 0-1 in June last year. All of India's matches after that till now have been against South Asian sides.

In fact, after Croatian Igor Stimac took over from Constantine, India have played 21 matches till now, winning six, including three against South Asian sides.

"The two matches (against Bahrain and Belarus) will show where our team is at the moment. We have chosen the opponents very carefully, they are better-ranked sides though I said rankings do not matter," Stimac said.

The head coach is looking forward to testing various combinations during the two international friendly matches here to prepare for different scenarios during the Asian Cup qualifiers in June.

The head coach said he will give opportunities to the new players in the two matches but cautioned against jumping guns by declaring ISL performers as quality players on the international stage.

"The just-concluded ISL season was extremely exciting and we have seen some new faces doing well in the ISL which has given us optimism. I am going to give chance to those boys and check how they can do at the international level," he said.

"But, the pace of ISL is far below the pace international football. Sometimes we are impressed with some players in ISL, but when they come to international matches there is nothing they can do."

"We have to be quite sure about their quality at the international matches," said the Croat, who had spoken about the likes of Roshan Singh, Sahal Abdul Samad, V P Suhair and Liston Colaco among the youngsters he would like to check.

Stimac has added seven new faces ahead of the friendlies -- Prabhsukhan Gill, Hormipam Ruivah, Anwar Ali, Roshan Singh, VP Suhair, Danish Farooq and Aniket Yadav.

"I want to give these boys the opportunity to play against good opponents and I expect them to carry a brave attitude tomorrow once they are on the pitch."

 Aniket and six others -- Amrinder Singh, Chinglensana Singh, Akash Mishra, Anirudh Thapa, Brandon Fernandes and Bipin Singh -- could not accompany their team-mate in the flight from Mumbai on Monday as their visas were yet to approved though All India Football Federation said that all of them will reach Manama on Tuesday.

"I don't know what I will do in such a circumstance. I have to see how many players are available at the end of the day here at Manama. (If the seven are not available, I will try to put the best available XI and try a few things," he said.

India has never beaten Bahrain in its football history, the lone drawn match (0-0) in 1982 being its best result out of the six matches between the two sides so far.

Bahrain has had mixed results in the last year, having beaten weaker sides such as Hong Kong, Malaysia, Cambodia and Haiti but losing to middle-rung teams like Oman, Jordan, New Zealand. It has also lost to stronger teams like Iran and Qatar.

But the Bahrain team is coming into Wednesday's match full of confidence after two wins over higher-ranked sides.

Bahrain beat African sides Uganda (3-1) and Democratic Republic of Congo (1-0) in late January and February respectively.



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