FIFA World Cup Qualifiers: India 'improved' ready for Oman's tough test

GUWAHATI: It's been a little less than four months since the coach Igor Stimac He took over the Indian team. Since then, he has guided the team through two tournaments: the King's Cup in Thailand and the Intercontinental Cup at home in Ahmedabad, and made healthy changes to the team, giving young people time to play and helping the team assimilate a different game style.

But the time for experimentation and preparation is finally over and the real test for the coach and his new team begins when India faces Oman in the first match of the World Cup qualifiers here Thursday.

Not only will India be playing a team that is 16 rungs above them in FIFA rankings, Oman also enjoy a superior head-to-head with four wins, two draws and just one loss against their less-fancied hosts. Add to that the fact that India’s next qualifier is an away match against Asian champions Qatar.

With only the first in the group and the top four teams in second place, Coach Stimac is aware of the challenge ahead. “I am very happy with the improvement that the children have made right now with me. Our goal will be to be strong and organized, ”said Stimac, 51, at the press conference on Wednesday.

The injuries have been a constant companion for the Croats. In addition to veteran Jeje Lapekhlua, he also lost the young midfielder Amarjit Singh Kiyam in a strange accident at the national camp in Goa. But Stimac seemed imperturbable.

I decided on the initial XI, he said. While Anas Edathodika and Sandesh Jhingan are expected to be the pillar of the defense, Pritam Kotal and Narinder Gehlot are likely to be the sides.

In the center of the field, Stimac has the most options. It seems likely that Udanta Singh and Rowlin Borges make the alignment, the two remaining slot machines in the center of the field could be a choice between Anirudh Thapa, Lallianzuala Chhangte and Aashique Kuruniyan. Sunil Chhetri It will be the spearhead and the leader.

What will make the task more difficult for the hosts is the fact that the side trained by Erwin Koeman boasts of talented and experienced players like Ahmed Mubarak Kano and Saad Al Mukhaini.