At the top after an impressive 1-1 draw against fictional Oman, India faces the formidable United Arab Emirates in their second friendly football match here on Monday, with head coach Igor Stimak once again ready to experiment with a new set of recruits.
Ten players made their debut against Oman on Thursday as India made a great comeback in the second half to keep the Gulf country, which is 23rd above them in the FIFA rankings.
Oman completely dominated the first half, as the Indians failed to hold the ball for some time. The visitors were quite busy defending their half in their first international tournament in more than a year.
The UAE is ranked eighth in Asia and 74th overall, while India is 104th. The UAE has won three of the four games played between the two countries in the past decade, while one game ended in a draw.
But India will draw inspiration from their match against the UAE during the group stage of the 2019 Asian Cup, where they had scored many goals, although they lost 0-2.
India paid dearly for the poor finish in this match, while luck did not benefit them either, as two shots hit the frame.
“The UAE are even tougher than Oman, so apart from a very tough match tomorrow. They (the UAE) are a technically better country, they play football faster and they will put a lot of pressure on us,” Stimak said.
“But that’s something we want to face and that’s why we’re playing internationally friendly against them. I don’t expect my players to control the game, but we have to find a way to compete against them.”
A tougher opponent than Oman by his own admission, but that won’t stop Stimak from recruiting new players from his 27-man squad against the UAE.
He said even senior defender Sandesh Jingan would not start until goalkeeper Gurprit Singh Sandhu is set to play instead of Amrinder Singh and captain of the country.
“We will see everyone who did not play in the first game of the match against the UAE. These are friendly matches that I will use to find the best (players) for the upcoming matches (World Cup qualifiers),” the head coach said.
“I can tell you that Sandesh will not play against the UAE. I will have to play with Adil Khan as well. It will not be fair for the other players if they are not brought out in these friendly matches.”
The UAE is one of the strongest countries in Asia and they reached the semifinals of the 2019 Asian Cup, which they hosted. But they’ve been struggling a bit lately.
In the four international matches they have played since the blockade of COVID-19, they have lost twice – against Uzbekistan and Bahrain – and won one – against Tajikistan. Their last match – against Iraq – ended in a goalless draw in January. Since then, Monday’s match against India will be their first international match.
India (from): Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Amrinder Singh, Subhashish Roy Chowdhury, Dheeraj Singh, Ashutosh Mehta, Akash Mishra, Pritam Kotal, Sandesh Jhingan, Chinglensana Singh, Adil Khan, Mandar Rao Dessai, Mashoor Shereef, Rowle Shereef, Row Rowlengon Singh, Rainier Fernandez, Anirud Tapa, Bipin Singh, Yasir Mohamad, Suresh Singh, Halicharan Narzari, Lalianzuala Changte, Ashike Kurunyan, Manvir Singh, Ishan Pandita, Hitesh Sharmako, List.
The match starts at 20.30 IST.